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US wants Pak to release doc who helped find Laden

A senior US official has admitted that a Pakistani doctor played a key role in tracking Osama bin Laden to his hideout in northern Pakistan and called for his release from jail.

world Updated: Jan 30, 2012 00:33 IST

A senior US official has admitted that a Pakistani doctor played a key role in tracking Osama bin Laden to his hideout in northern Pakistan and called for his release from jail.

The comments by US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, were the first public confirmation of a part of the Bin Laden operation revealed by the Guardian in July last year, which detailed how the CIA used Dr Shakil Afridi to establish whether the al-Qaida leader was living in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Afridi has been in Pakistani custody since the country’s ISI discovered the secret task performed by the doctor, who set up a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad in a bid to gain DNA samples from those staying at the suspect compound.

The CIA was never certain that Bin Laden was present in the house. Afridi worked for the intelligence agency in the weeks leading up to the US special forces raid on 2 May, setting up a scheme that supposedly involved going house-to-house to vaccinate residents in Abbottabad.

Panetta, speaking to the US television network CBS in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday night, also voiced his belief that elements within Pakistan must have known that Bin Laden, or at least someone significant, was present inside the compound.

“I am very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual (Afridi). This was an individual who, in fact, helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regard to this operation,” he said.

The Guardian discovered that Afridi was arrested in late May.

Guardian News Service