Islamabad, 14 Jul (PTI): Did US pilots use flood relief operations in Pakistan in 2010 to obtain terrain information about Abbottabad that lead to the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden?
The Pakistani Commission that probed the presence of the slain al-Qaeda chief in the country thinks it could be a distinct possibility.
In the report, leaked by Al Jazeera channel, the commission notes that there was no presence of the Pakistan army in the areas over which the US mission entered Pakistan’s airspace and flew all the way to Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 where they killed the elusive terrorist mastermind.
The distance between the army posts along the border was approximately 32 kilometres (20 miles).
“Some of the US pilots may have directly or indirectly benefited from the US flood relief air operations of August-October 2010, in the same general area. It is noteworthy that during this period (August-October 2010) the Americans had also identified the OBL compound in Abbottabad as his (Osama’s) likely residence by tracking the movements of Ibrahim and Abrar (his close confidantes),” the report said.
Abrar was the brother of Osama’s courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed.
According to then Pakistani Deputy Chief of Air Staff, “There was the possibility of some of their (US) pilots having flown in this area during the 2010 flood relief operations”.
The report said Americans had flown extensively in the area for months.
It also noted that American pilots were always accompanied by Pakistani pilots during the flood relief operations, “but such flights may still have enabled the Americans to obtain terrain information that was later of operational value in the planning of the Abbottabad raid.”