Osama bin Laden lived in plain sight for almost a decade and was once even pulled over for speeding but not apprehended, thanks to the incompetence of Pakistan's intelligence and security services, an official report into his killing said on Monday.
The report, leaked to Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera which circulated it late on Monday, offers fascinating details about life on the run for the world's most wanted man, who, it says, wore a cowboy hat to avoid being spotted from above.
Written by a judge-led commission that the Pakistani government set up shortly after U.S. Special Forces killed bin Laden in 2011, the 336-page report is based on interviews with 201 sources including members of his family and various officials.
In one testimony showing how close bin Laden came to being captured. Maryam, the wife of one of his most trusted aides, recounted how his car was stopped by Pakistani police in the Swat region.
To avoid detection from the sky, bin Laden took to wearing a cowboy hat when moving about his compound in the city of Abbottabad, his wives told investigators.
The inquiry's findings - which have not yet been officially published - include evidence of incompetence at almost every level of Pakistan's security apparatus.
The report is also fiercely critical of the “illegal manner” in which the United States conducted the raid.
It chastises Pakistan's leadership for failing to detect CIA activities on its soil, and does not rule out the involvement of rogue elements within the Pakistani intelligence service - a sensitive issue even to touch on in a high-profile inquiry.
After a decade-long hunt, the CIA finally tracked down the al Qaeda leader to a compound within sight of an elite Pakistani military academy in Abbottabad, close to the capital Islamabad.
In a night-time mission by U.S. Navy SEALs, bin Laden was killed on May 2 that year in an episode that humiliated Pakistan's military and strained relations between the strategic allies Washington and Islamabad.
Pakistan's government and security officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Bin Laden's network killed nearly 3,000 people when al Qaeda hijackers crashed commercial planes into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon outside Washington and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Some U.S. officials have voiced suspicions that Pakistan's intelligence agencies sheltered bin Laden, but Pakistan has dismissed the idea.