A former Pakistan military general who sold al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's location to the CIA for part of the $25 million bounty has been identified by the local media as brigadier Usman Khalid.
Prominent Pakistani journalist and investigations editor for The News International Amir Mir quoted “well-informed intelligence circles” as naming the spy as retired brigadier Khalid, who also reportedly persuaded a doctor to pose as a polio campaigner and obtain DNA proof that bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound where he was killed.
A controversial new report by US journalist Seymour Hersh claimed to have uncovered a secret deal between Washington and Islamabad that resulted in the killing of the terror chief in 2011.
According to Hersh, the informant and his family “were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area… he is now a consultant for the CIA”.
The White House has flatly rejected Hersh's claims that Pakistan was told in advance about the May 2 Special Forces raid in the garrison town of Abbottabad, 110km north of the capital.
The operation sparked allegations Pakistani authorities had colluded with al Qaeda, a claim denied by Islamabad.
A source -- who was a serving senior military official at the time of the raid -- told AFP on Tuesday that the informant was a "resourceful and energetic" mid-ranking intelligence officer whose efforts were critical to the operation's success.
Hersh's report quoted a senior US source as saying a "walk-in" approached the then-Islamabad station chief for the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2010 promising to lead them to bin Laden, who according to the journalist had been imprisoned by Pakistani authorities at the Abbottabad compound since 2006.
The New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall has also backed much of Hersh’s story.
According to Gall, Seymour’s account and recent reports by NBC News and AFP that US sources and former senior Pakistani military officials admitted that a Pakistani defector has assisted the US in its hunt for bin Laden suggests Pakistani complicity in “hiding a man charged with international terrorism.”
The US had placed a $25-million-dollar bounty on information leading to the capture or killing of bin Laden -- a sum Washington has said it never paid because no human informants were used.
According to Hersh's report, the US learned that Pakistani authorities had bin Laden in their custody and were hoping to use him as a shield against al Qaeda and Taliban attacks.
Later, Hersh reported, the US convinced Pakistan to stage a fake raid to kill bin Laden, providing a boost for US President Barack Obama -- then in his first term -- while also allowing the Pakistanis to deny having anything to do with the killing.
Both former Pakistani officials, however, and several other serving officials, have dismissed the allegation that such a deal had been brokered.
The then-serving senior military official said that in the aftermath of the raid, "the mood here and the reaction here was of great frustration even at the top level.
"If the top guys had been part of the plan -- they were the worst hit. They were almost forced to resign.
"With the kind of bad name and reputation that came with such a great risk, it wasn't worth it."
A leaked Pakistani government report in 2013 said bin Laden arrived in Pakistan in the spring or summer of 2002 -- after the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan -- and settled in Abbottabad in August 2005.
The report, which coined the term "governance implosion syndrome" to explain the extent of official failures to detect him, said he was once stopped for speeding and enjoyed wearing a cowboy hat.
Hersh's report has been met with some scepticism, but an editorial in Pakistan's English-language daily Dawn argued it should force the government to officially release the findings of the 2013 investigation, and bring the country's powerful military-run intelligence agencies under civilian supervision.
Qazi Khalilullah, Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman, meanwhile said the government was investigating Hersh's account and would announce its reaction soon.