PESHAWAR, March 5: Documents, CDs and a computer recovered after Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s arrest indicate that Osama bin Laden may be alive, according to knowledgeable sources.
The evidence also indicates that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had a meeting with Osama last month, the sources told Dawn on Wednesday.
“There is now no doubt that he is alive and well,” the sources said, asking they not be named. “We have evidence that shows he is alive.”
The sources said that based on the information gleaned from the documents, Pakistani officials believe that Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor who is thought to be the brains of Al Qaeda, slipped back into Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in October 2001, and hiding for some time in the Middle East. But Al-Zawahiri and Osama are not together, the sources said.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed fled from Karachi last September after another key Al Qaeda operative, Ramzi bin Al Shibh, was captured, and went to Quetta. He left Quetta last month after one of his team members, identified as Asadullah, an Egyptian by nationality, was picked up during a joint FBI-ISI raid. He moved first to Lahore, then to Rawalpindi, the sources said.
The sources believe that Osama has almost certainly moved since Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s arrest. “We believe that he has changed his hideout and moved away,” the sources said. “He keeps shifting. He surely knows that Khalid has been captured and will avoid moving to places he (Khalid) knew about.”
The sources said he would not reveal how Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured, but suggested that he had been betrayed by someone inside the organization. There was a $25 million reward for his capture. “I am not going to tell you how we captured him, but Khalid knows who did him in.”
He “was shocked when arrested,” and had refused to talk.
The information the Americans and Pakistanis now have have come from “a computer, CDs and notebooks,” the sources said. “The information that has come by virtue of his arrest is immense. It reveals his contacts in the Philippines, Europe and the United States.”
They said that Al Qaeda operated by way of a complex system and used cut outs to protect the leakage of information even in the event of a bust. The operatives used internet cafes and cut and pasted messages using a series of e-mail addresses. “Even if we manage to pinpoint the cafe, it is difficult to find the senders,” the sources said.
They said the authorities also knew where Osama bin Laden’s wives and children were.