Osama bin Laden protected by ISI elements: Report

Osama bin Laden was shot dead in pre-dawn secret US operation in Abbottabad.

Washington: An influential American daily on Thursday claimed that there are signs that slain al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was being protected by some elements of the Pakistan`s notorious spy agency ISI.

"There`s no doubt he (bin Laden) was protected by some in the ISI," an unnamed European official was quoted as saying by The Wall Street Journal.

It said US and European intelligence officials believe active or retired Pakistani military or intelligence officials provided some measure of aid to al Qaeda leader bin Laden, allowing him to stay hidden in a large compound just a mile from an elite military academy in Abbottabad.

Helping the effort will be the cache of computers, storage drives and other materials taken from bin Laden`s residence, the daily said.

It said two senior US officials and a high-level European military-intelligence official, who have direct working knowledge of Pakistan`s military intelligence agency ISI, say similar elements linked to the ISI have aided other Pakistan-based terror groups, the Haqqani militant network and Lashkar-e-Toiba.

However, according to one intelligence official, who has extensive experience in Pakistan, the ISI would have responded immediately when the compound came under attack if it had been his protector.

According to the Journal, US officials say they have evidence that the Haqqani network, a militant group based in Pakistan`s mountainous North Waziristan region, receives material support from the ISI in executing attacks against US and NATO forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Lashkar-e-Toiba carried out a deadly 2008 assault in Mumbai.

A similar statement was made by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview to the Dawn newspaper last month.

Bin Laden was shot dead in a pre-dawn helicopter-borne secret US operation in Abbottabad near Islamabad, raising questions whether the establishment knowingly harboured him.

Both the White House and the CIA have said that they are looking into the possibility of support infrastructure that bin Laden enjoyed from the establishment at his hideout.

In classified briefings with top lawmakers, senior national security officials, said they were looking for evidence that elements within the ISI and the Army played a direct or indirect role in protecting the al Qaeda leader.