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CIA to search Osama compound

world Updated: May 28, 2011 01:44 IST

Pakistan has agreed to allow the CIA to send a forensics team to examine the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed, giving the agency permission to use sophisticated equipment in a search for al Qaeda materials that may have been hidden inside walls or buried at the site, US officials said.

The arrangement would allow the CIA for the first time to enter a complex that it had previously scrutinised only from a distance, using satellites, stealth drones and spies operating from a nearby safe house that was shuttered when bin Laden was killed.

US officials said that a CIA team is expected to arrive at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, within days and that the objective is to scrub the site for items that were not recovered by American commandos during the raid early this month or by Pakistani security forces who secured the facility afterward.

"The assault team was there for only 40 minutes," a US official said. The aim is to return to the site "to do another, more thorough look." The official, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

CIA Deputy Director Michael J Morell negotiated access to the Abbottabad site during a trip to Islamabad last week, when he met with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s main intelligence service, officials said.

Pakistan's agreement is considered an encouraging sign that the two spy services will continue cooperating despite anger in Islamabad about the American operation to kill bin Laden and a series of recent ruptures between the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart.

Pakistan has also agreed to allow the CIA to examine materials that Pakistan's security forces hauled away from the compound in the days after the raid, officials said.

In turn, the CIA has asked Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, for assistance in analysing some of the records that were seized and brought to a CIA document exploitation facility in Northern Virginia.

In particular, US officials said the CIA is seeking help with deciphering references to names of people and places. The agency has turned to the ISI for help identifying and locating people who were seen entering and leaving the compound during the months it was under near-constant American surveillance.

US intelligence officials have described the materials from the bin Laden compound as the largest intelligence haul ever recovered relating to a terrorist network. The materials include dozens of computer storage devices as well as thousands of pages of documents.

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