Excerpts from Abbottabad Commission report

Published July 9, 2013
Osama Bin Laden.—File Photo.
Osama Bin Laden.—File Photo.

123: The testimony of Major Amir Aziz was recorded on October 25, 2011. He was reluctant to appear before the Commission. But when informed of the consequence of refusing to do so, he came and offered his apology.

124: According to the testimony of Major Amir Aziz who lived in the neighborhood of the OBL compound, at about 0030 hours he heard the noise of helicopters and saw two helicopters flying very low. He saw a Chinook landing at the back of the OBL compound. He also saw a Black Hawk landing inside the compound and another in descent outside the compound. The Major said he saw soldiers in camouflage descending from the Black Hawk helicopter hovering over the OBL compound. According to him, he saw one of the Black Hawks crash landing. He thought there might have been a third Blackhawk helicopter. At around 0040 hours Major Aziz said he heard gun shots which he thought were of M-16/M-4 weapons. Around 150 shots were fired, according to him. This was much more gunfire than what the Army investigation report concluded. In between the sound of gunfire the Major heard five muffled sounds of small charges. There were no cries of women or children that he heard from the house.

125: The weapons firing lasted continuously for about 10 to 13 minutes, according to the Major (who seemed to be keeping an exact account of the time). Then there was complete silence from 0058 to 0105 hours when there was a loud explosion which shattered the windows of his house. Major Aziz told the Commission that at the time of the incident, he was a serving officer and on seeing the helicopter, he spoke to his Administration Officer Major Adnan.

126: The Commission asked Major Aziz that as serving officer why did he not try to visit the scene of the incident to ascertain what was happening. He said he had informed his commandant, a Brigadier Shuja through his Administration Officer, Major Adnan, and sought instructions. Major Aziz said he was told to remain in his house as the situation was not clear. His first impression was that the PMA might have been attacked and that Pakistan Army helicopters had been called in for some kind of rescue operation. (It was clear from Major Aziz’s description that the OBL compound, which was visible from his house, was under attack, which he described in detail. It is not clear how he thought that the PMA was under attack).

127: With regard to the OBL compound, Major Aziz said that similar houses were constructed in the vicinity and there was nothing unusual about it that should have attracted attention. However, he did mention the barbed wire on the boundary walls and he felt that the fact that there was hardly any activity in the house appeared “somewhat strange”.

128: As for the presence of OBL in the house, Major Aziz was confused as to whether OBL would have chosen such a place to live in. He mentioned the high water level which prevented the construction of an escape tunnel. He also mentioned that any family would need at least a set of twenty or so basic services such as a cook, driver, barber, carpenter, etc. But apparently, the large family of OBL did not require any services for over five years. This he found hard to believe. Major Aziz said that after the incident he had questioned the local service providers (was he authorised to do so or doing it as a matter of personal curiosity?). He had spoken to electrician and plumbers, etc, but no one admitted that they have provided any services to OBL “compound”. This, according to major Aziz, was “unimaginable”. He also expressed amazement at how 15-16 children of different ages could be confined and controlled for over five years when even 2-3 children are almost impossible to control and keep quiet.

129: As a result of all these questions, Major Aziz said that he and his son regularly discussed the question whether OBL could have really been residing in the compound for so long.

130: With regard to whether or not the CIA hired a house in the vicinity, possibly under the guise of some American agency such as USAID, Major Aziz said that USAID had hired a house in the area and that “Shakeel Afridi with a few women also visited the area” in connection with the vaccination campaign. Major Aziz also said, somewhat contradictorily, that “Abbottabad was an ideal place for OBL” as everything was available there. It was according to him a peaceful place and families of many terrorists lived there which according to Major Aziz ensured it against suicidal attacks since terrorists would not like to harm their own families. Moreover, the bodies of martyred militants, according to Major Aziz “were buried with great honour in Abbottabad”.

131: Major Aziz also told the Commission that when he was constructing his own house sometime before the incident of May 2, 2011 he came across three Land Cruisers with tinted glasses. Whether these Land Cruisers were the same as those which were later seen heading towards Abbottabad on the eve of the incident is not known. But it raises the possibility that these Land Cruisers had been scouting the area before the incident and were present during the operation to provide ground assistance.

He also mentioned that the ISI raided the OBL compound when it was under construction and an exchange of fire had also taken place during the raid. The ISI completely denied the statement saying a raid had taken place on a suspected residence of an Al Qaeda leader approximately two kilometers away from the OBL compound.

132: In his statement recorded for the second time on January 9, 2012, Major Aziz highlighted his relationship with Lt Col (retd) Saeed Iqbal who visited him on 2-3 occasions and showed interest in purchasing the land belonging to Aziz, which however could not be finalised. Saeed Iqbal had a very costly vehicle (Coach 2002) which was noise-controlled and he was planning to build a house for his wife in Bilal Town. Maj (retd) Aziz informed the Commission on this occasion that once Lt Col Saeed Iqbal went on the rooftop of his house and took photographs of his pets but did not know whether photographs of OBL compound were also taken.

133: The car in the use of Col Saeed Iqbal was not only noise-controlled but bullet proof as well worth whereof must be 3-4 crore rupees which a retired Colonel cannot afford by any stretch of imagination. He was also having the latest Digital Camera which cannot be for the purpose of taking photographs of pets only. Major Aziz informed the Commission that a son of Lt Col Saeed Iqbal was ADC to former president Pervez Musharraf and currently worked as a private secretary to him.

Commission’s observations

134: There was a gap of more than 30 minutes between the crash, or controlled landing of the unbalanced Black Hawk helicopter, and its deliberate destruction by the departing US raiders. But he saw apparently the helicopters landing, circling and unloading soldiers on to the house, informed his Commanding Officer Brig Shuja of what he had witnessed. That would have been almost half an hour before the destruction of the helicopter. This suggested the possibility that if the Brigadier had passed on the information, the QRF and other cantonment security forces might have been able to reach the site earlier and encountered the Navy SEALs before they departed. Both Major Aziz and Constable Nazar Mohammad also claimed they heard gunfire. While Major Aziz was a neighbour and a soldier, Constable Nazar Mohammad was at some distance from the house.

These accounts appear inconsistent with the view that the Navy SEALs used silencers which the wives of OBL seem to confirm.

Major Aziz also suggested there was a gun battle for some minutes. But this is not the general view. The reliability of Major Aziz’s testimony is questionable although he was speaking on oath.

135: Major Aziz’s remarks about Lt Col Saeed Iqbal are potentially significant as they could reveal about CIA network in Pakistan. Lt Col Saeed Iqbal, according to Major Aziz, employed former ISI employees in his security business. Although he appears to be a very suspicious person and may well have played an active role in facilitating the Abbottabad incident, the ISI informed the Commission that neither Major Aziz nor Lt Col Saeed Iqbal, despite their suspicious background, played any such role. This conclusion is somewhat strange as Saeed Iqbal left Pakistan immediately after the incident and attempted to sell his properties.

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