`Abbottabad compound was active command centre of al Qaeda`

A US official said Osama had remained active Qaeda leader before his killing.

Washington: Osama bin Laden had remained an active leader in al Qaeda before he was killed at a mansion in Abbottabad in a US raid and had overseen both strategy and operations from his secret compound, a top US official has said.

The three-storey mansion in Abbottabad, near a major military establishment, some 80 kms from Islamabad, was in fact an active al Qaeda command and control centre run by its leader Osama bin laden, the official said.

"It is suffice to say that this compound in Abbottabad was an active command and control centre for al Qaeda`s top leader. It is clear that he was not just a strategic thinker of the group. He was active in operational planning and driving tactical decisions inside al Qaeda," the senior intelligence official said, based on the information obtained from the huge cache of material that was recovered by the US forces from this Abbottabad compound early this month.

During the raid, the US Special Forces found 10 hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, such as disks and thumb drives.

The CIA has set up a task force to infer the information from these electronic devices and other materials recovered from this Abbottabad hideout.

Noting that Osama bin laden declared war on the United States, is responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocents, the official said it was "entirely unsurprising to us and was always our working assumption" that he was involved in aspects of al Qaeda`s planning.

Osama bin Laden relied heavily in courier network, which helped him maintain his command and control over the terrorist network, without having any access to telephone, Internet and cell phone.

"That is precisely what led us to his," the official said.

"It is probable that the couriers at this compound were supporting his communication with other members of al Qaeda," the official said.

According to intelligence officials, there is no additional information if bin Laden had any other hideout, besides the one at Abbottabad.

"I am not aware that bin Laden had any other command and control," the official said, who is familiar with the ongoing investigation.

But this is something, which the US is looking for right now.

"What we have gone through so far, shows that he was actively involved in plotting operations and in directing the daily operations of the group. He was not someone who was just penning al Qaeda strategy. He was throwing operational ideas there and he was specifically directing other al Qaeda members," the official said.

In one of the audio-less video that was released by the US Government on Saturday, bins Laden, according to the intelligence official, was very critical of the United States and denigrating capitalism.

In a statement the CIA director Leon Panetta said that the top intelligence agency has delivered what it was expected of.

"This mission goes to the heart of what the CIA is all about: protecting America and building a better world for our children. It demonstrates the perseverance, skill, and sheer courage of the men and women who stand watch for our nation, day in and day out," Panetta said.

"It is a model of seamless collaboration, both within the Intelligence Community and with the US military. The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after Bin Laden. Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered," Panetta said.

US authorities yesterday released new videos of bin Laden included one showing bin Laden in which his hair and beard are white watching images of himself on television inside his USD 1 million three-storey building just 800 yards away from the Pakistan Military Academy in the garrison town.


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