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Pakistan bars bin Laden family from leaving

world Updated: Jul 06, 2011 15:01 IST

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A Pakistani commission investigating how Osama bin Laden lived undetected for years in the country has ordered the government not to repatriate his surviving family without its consent.

Pakistan took custody of the al Qaeda leader's two Saudi and one Yemeni widows and around 10 of their children, after US Navy SEALs killed him and flew off with his body from the army town of Abbottabad on May 2.

Pakistan has given CIA agents access to the wives but the commission's move is likely to delay their departure, after an official recently confirmed to AFP that the youngest widow, Amal Abdulfattah, could return to Yemen within days.

"The ministry of interior and ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) have been directed to ensure that the family of Osama Bin Laden is not repatriated from Pakistan without the consent of the commission," the commission said.

The four-member panel, chaired by a supreme court judge, has the authority to summon anyone and a security official told AFP that bin Laden's family would be no exception. There is no timeline for it to complete its investigation.

"They will go back eventually but perhaps until such time that investigations are complete, they would want to talk to them as well," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"They can make demand and they will be given access," the official added.

The move is likely to disappoint Abdulfattah's family, who told AFP last month in Yemen that they expected her and her children home shortly.

The revelation that the world's most-wanted man lived in a garrison city just a stone's throw from a top military academy raised questions about complicity or incompetence within Pakistan's security services.

The discovery that bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, seemingly for five years, and the unilateral American raid have been described by critics in Pakistan as the military's worst disaster since Bangladesh separated from Pakistan in 1971.

The independent commission, which the government set up under pressure from a political opposition critical that an internal military inquiry would not be objective, has the power to summon military and civilian leaders.

It also called on volunteers to submit evidence.

"Their identity will be kept confidential and they will also be legally protected," it said in a statement.

Headed by judge Javed Iqbal, the other members of the commission are Abbas Khan, a former police commander, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, a former UN diplomat and retired general Nadeem Ahmed, who used to head the national disaster authority.

It will again meet next Monday.

The commission said it has been tasked with investigating the "full facts" regarding bin Laden's presence in Pakistan, the circumstances of the American raid that killed him and the lapses "if any" of Pakistani authorities.

It said its work would be "independent, transparent, thorough, impartial, nonpartisan and in camera whenever required."