Insight / Farrag Ismail: Many questions, few convincing answers about the night Bin Laden was killed


I was astonished when I heard the announcement about the killing of Osama Bin Laden at a house in the garrison town of Abbottabad, near Islamabad, in a military zone that has been exposed to continual inspection from inside and outside.

As I am very well acquainted with the behavior of the first and second generations of Arab fighters in Afghanistan, who fuelled the war against Kabul’s communist regime and its Soviet ally in the eighties of last century, Bin Laden’s end therefore came as a shock for me.

All the TV interviews I gave at the time were based on speculation rather than personal knowledge—as I did not have any proof—that such a tragic end was nothing but a bargain carried out by the strong Pakistan Intelligence Agency. It is illogical that the agency that used to be aware of the “corridors” on which the wandering ants walked was unaware of Bin Laden’s hideout, which was few steps away from a very significant military base.

Until now, I don’t find anything that would convince me to disregard my conclusion. The Pakistani Intelligence Agency, led by its chief at that time General Hamid Ghul, created Taliban, set up its state in Afghanistan, and consolidated its ties with Al Qaeda.

I talked to General Ghul during the intensive international media presence at the Marriot Hotel in Islamabad prior to the US war on Taliban. I perceived that he believed that it would not fall that easily. According to him, the United States does not fight against an organized army, but they are facing Afghan and Arab-Afghani suicidal fighters, who believe that they see heaven in front of them and the enemy behind them.

Ghul was—and I think is still—sympathizing with Taliban and its old Arab “mujahedeen”(fighting for God) allies.

During my days as a reporter in Afghanistan, where I covered the Taliban’s fights against the Soviet occupation, and in Kandahar when I was present during the international coalition’s attack on the Taliban, I was able to get in touch with many of the famous names that completely disappeared after September 11. The first of those names was Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and Taliban chief Mulla Omar.

Commenting on his killing early this month, I said that Bin Laden was a very careful person. All his companions took care of the slightest details. They never allowed even the smallest mistake to pass. Accordingly, his stay in Abbottabad without well-trained guards will remain as a big mystery, until the coming days unravel it or the United States decides to provide more answers to gathering questions.

The US got rid of him by killing, although he could have been easily detained. The latest US reports showed that he was surprised, as the US forces found him in his underwear and his guns were away from him, on a shelf in his bedroom.

After that, they got rid of his dead body by throwing it into the sea without even getting an Islamic fatwa (rule), a step that led to the anger of the Al-Azhar—Islam’s biggest Sunni institution—in Egypt. The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyeb—who got his master’s degree from France—made very angry statements on this regard.

Back in 2002, the US writer Peter L. Bergen—who worked as a reporter for the CNN in Afghanistan and happened to meet with Bin Laden several times—visited me in Cairo, as he was preparing for his book, “The Osama Bin Laden I Know.” I was one of those whom he talked with and recorded their remarks in that book.

He asked me: “Do you think that one day they might arrest or kill Osama Bin Laden?”

I answered: “I don’t think this is easy. A person who is used to fight and hide in Afghanistan’s mountains and who believes in a certain ideology does not fall except through one of two means. The first is to be sold off by any of his companions, and I don’t think his guards or fighters would do that if they were the only ones who knew of his hideout. The second is for him to die as a result of any illness such as kidney failure or any other disease.”

I think that Mr. Bergen agreed with me, as he knew Bin Laden. Now I still stick to what I said then, based on the contradictions that accompanied the night of his killing.

It seems that the United States did not prepare well for the night that followed the killing of Bin Laden. It made big mistakes and retreated a lot.

It said that he was killed as he hid behind his wife and took her as a human shield. When it discovered that the story did not go with his real personality, it mentioned that the wife Amal al-Saddah—of Yemeni origin—tried to attack the commandos so as to defend her husband, so they shot her in her leg and she fell down.

The United States said it killed him because they feared he had an explosive belt, and then they retreated saying that he was surprised by the troops and he was in his underwear, while his guns were away from him on a shelf in the bedroom.

The latest provocation that could have been avoided was that the US troops gave the name ‘Cairo’ to the dog that accompanied them in the operation. Cairo is the name of the capital of Al-Azhar, which was founded when the Muslims entered Egypt in 639 A.D.

It is quite strange that President Obama kicked off his presidential career by addressing the Muslim world from that capital that carries the same name of the “dog.” You can thus imagine the impact on the Arabs and Muslims!

There are other sarcastic details. For example, they said they had found some porno videos at his room, which he watched before sleeping with any of his three wives. This is unbelievable for any faithful person, not only fundamentalist or Salafi like Bin Laden.

Furthermore, they said they had found aphrodisiacs in his bedroom. This all indicates that they were quite hasty in making up the details of the day on which Bin Laden was killed; although they alleged that they have watched him for some time through undetectable drones.

They made it seem as a “sexual night” for the Al Qaeda leader, who left behind a $300-million fortune and lived in a house in Sudan—where the weather is very hot—without an air conditioner during the nineties. His wife Om Ali asked for divorce because she couldn’t bear to live such a poor life.

Such contradictory reports regarding the night Bin Laden was killed all indicate that there is a real story that hasn’t yet been revealed.

(Farrag Ismail is the Editorial Manager of AlArabiya.net, he can be reached at: farrag.ismail@mbc.net)