ISLAMABAD, May 3: Osama bin Laden’s teenage daughter witnessed her father’s death in the compound in Abbottabad according to an ISI official. The girl is now in Pakistani custody together with Bin Laden’s wife. The wife, who speaks only Arabic and who was injured in the attack, said on regaining consciousness that she was Yemeni and that she had been in the compound for a few months.
The official said there were 17 or 18 people in the compound at the time of the attack and that as well as taking Osama bin Laden’s body away the Americans took one person alive --- possibly one of his sons.
Four dead bodies were left in the compound. It is believed they are of another son, 2 brothers and a guard.
Those who survived the attack included the wife, the daughter and 8 to 9 other children --- not apparently Bin Laden’s but possibly those of his brothers. All those being held in Pakistan will be returned to their countries of origin.
When the Pakistan authorities found the surviving women and children in the compound their hands were bound with plastic tags and it is believed that had one of the American helicopters not malfunctioned then they too would have been taken away.
There were four helicopters involved in the attack: two remained in the air and two landed. The Pakistani authorities recovered some documents from the compound apparently missed by the Americans.
Local officials in Abbottabad said that the ownership of the compound remains unclear as the relevant documentation is in the name of someone with a false identity.
The ISI said that they had no advance warning of the American operation. Between 25 and 40 American personnel were involved in the raid on the compound.
It is believed the American helicopters, possibly fitted with stealth technology, were in the air for about 30 minutes as they moved from Jalalabad to Abbottabad. They were on the ground for 40 minutes before making the return journey.
Asked why they had not checked out a building so close a major military facility the ISI said that the compound had actually been raided when the house was under construction in 2003 when the authorities believed an Al Qaeda operative Abu Faraj Al Libbi was there. On that occasion he escaped.
But since then the house had not been on their radar. However, a satellite image of the site of the compound taken in 2004 shows no sign of any construction work.
ISI officials have accepted that their failure to know Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad was embarrassing but argue that that should be placed against the fact that on many occasions they have identified the locations of senior Al Qaeda operatives and arrested them.
It is not known if anybody had yet claimed the $25 million dollar reward money that the Americans said was on offer for information leading them to Bin Laden
The writer is a BBC correspondent