In an explosive revelation, Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh wrote that Osama bin Laden was a prisoner of the ISI in the garrison town of Abbottabad since 2006.
Writing in the London Review of Books on the fourth anniversary of the Abbottabad raid that killed bin Laden, Hersh said that “According to American sources, Â Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006.
He also claimed that the then-Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and head of ISI, Lt General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of the US Navy Sealsâ€™ raid and made sure that the two helicopters carrying the Seals to Abbottabad crossed Pakistani airspace without triggering an alarm.
“The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders–General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI–were never informed of the US mission,” he said.Â
Among the reportâ€™s most explosive claims is that the US did not find Bin Laden by tracking his couriers, as the government and most official accounts have reported. Instead, according to the Hersh report, the US paid a $25 million reward to an unnamed former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who â€œbetrayed the secretâ€ of Bin Ladenâ€™s whereabouts. Hershâ€™s report says that this officer was relocated to Washington, D.C. and now works as a consultant for the CIA.
The Pakistani cooperated because they wanted to ensure the continued release of US military aid, a “good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding that finances personal security, such as bullet-proof limousines and security guards and housing for the ISI leadership”, Hersh wrote.
After prolonged negotiations, Kayani eventually agreed on the raid by the US but insisted that there could not be a big strike force. Kayani also insisted that the US would have to kill bin Laden or there would be no deal, Hersh said.
During the negotiations, Pasha offered the Americans a “blunt explanation” of the reason Pakistan kept bin Laden’s capture a secret and why it was imperative for the ISI role to remain secret. “We needed a hostage to keep tabs on al-Qaida and the Taliban,” Pasha was quoted as saying.Â
The story also claims that Bin Ladenâ€™s burial at sea never happened, that Bin Laden was an invalid when the SEALs raided the compound and killed him, and that there was no firefight at all during the SEAL raid. Additionally, Hershâ€™s account says that the ISI captured and set bin Laden up in Abbottabad in the first place, to use him as â€œleverageâ€ in the countryâ€™s dealings with al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad, home to the Pakistan Military Academy, on the night of May 2, 2011, in a CIA-led operation conducted by Seal Team Six of the US Navy.