Was Osama protected by ISI?
Pakistan denies it knew of Osama bin Laden`s whereabouts or sheltered him.
Washington: US and European intelligence officials increasingly believe active or retired Pakistani military or intelligence officials provided some measure of aid to Osama bin Laden to stay hidden in Pakistan, a media report said.
Similar elements linked to the ISI have aided other Pakistan-based terror groups, the Haqqani militant network and Lashkar-e-Toiba, blamed for Mumbai terror attacks, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday citing senior US and European officials.
"There`s no doubt he was protected by some in the ISI," a high-level European military-intelligence official was quoted as saying.
The officials, who have direct working knowledge of Pakistan`s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, were cited as saying they believe these ISI elements include some current and former intelligence and military operatives with long-standing ties to al Qaeda and other militant groups, the Journal said.
The officials, the daily said, didn`t offer specific evidence, but pointed to the proximity of Abbottabad, where bin Laden was found and killed, to the capital Islamabad and its high concentration of current and former military and intelligence officers.
They said aid likely included intelligence tips to help keep bin Laden ahead of his American pursuers.
But others in both the US and Pakistan have cast doubt on whether Abbottabad would have provided a more hospitable refuge than other towns, or whether officials would have reason to believe bin Laden could be hiding there, the Journal said.
Abbottabad had come to the notice of Pakistani intelligence as a suspected hiding place for al Qaeda leaders as long ago as 2003 and was the focus of searches for top al Qaeda figures in years since, it said.
In 2005, the man who was later identified as bin Laden`s courier, acquired the property in Abbottabad on which the compound was built, US officials said on Wednesday. The name he used, Arshad Khan, is the local alias he employed. It was this courier who, nearly six years later, eventually led the US to the compound.
Pakistan denies it knew of bin Laden`s whereabouts or sheltered him and Pakistani officials say they passed the information about the 2003 search to their American counterparts, the Journal said.