‘With €500 in pocket, Osama was ready to flee’

Cash worth 500 euros & two phone numbers were found sewn into Osama`s clothing when he was killed.

Updated: May 05, 2011, 00:48 AM IST

Washington: In indications that Osama bin
Laden was prepared to flee at short notice, cash totalling 500
Euros and two telephone numbers were found sewn into his
clothing when he was killed by US commandos deep inside
Pakistan on Sunday.

US media reported tonight that this information was
given by top intelligence officials to members of the Congress
at a classified briefing at which CIA Director Leon Panetta was
present.

Another US media report said the American troops that
swooped on bin Laden`s compound at Abbottabad may have laid
their hands on the "largest potential intelligence coup of the
post-9/11 era."

The Navy SEALS, which conducted the 40-minute
operation, carried off five computers, 10 hard drives and more
than 100 storage devices and removable flash drives, the Wall
Street Journal said quoting US officials.

A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) task force, which
has already conducted a preliminary analysis of the material,
is hunting for leads on the location of the slain al Qaeda
leader`s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is widely
expected to ascend to the top of the outfit.

US publication `POLITCO" quoting sources who attended
Panetta`s briefing reported that the CIA chief told lawmakers
about the items found in bin Laden`s clothing in response to a
question about why he wasn`t guarded by more security
personnel at his home in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

The answer, according to one source, bin Laden believed
"his network was strong enough he`d get a heads-up" before any
US strike.

The evidence of cash, which amounts to 740 USD and
phone numbers was divulged to support the US Administration`s
belief that bin Laden was prepared to escape the compound if
alerted to an impending attack, the publication quoted a
source.

Panetta said yesterday that Pakistani officials were
kept deliberately out of the loop by the US in its operation
to get bin Laden as it feared they might "alert" the targets
and "jeopardise" the mission.

The US Administration`s belief on bin Laden`s escape
plans may also be buttressed by White House`s revelation that
the 9/11 mastermind was not armed when he was killed in the
raid by the Navy SEAL team.

Senator Tom carper, was quoted by WSJ as having said,
"The real benefit to our security from the raid by the Navy
SEALS is we`ve recovered a treasure trove of intelligence that
can be used to go after bad guys all over the world." Carper,
a Delaware Democrat, is a member of the Senate`s
homeland-security committee.

US officials said they believed al Zawahiri is
somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Some intelligence suggests he is hiding in the
Pakistani regions of North or South Wazirstan, along the
Afghanistan border--the tribal region suspected or sheltering
bin Laden until investigations led the US to Abbottabad.

The officials said that one of the most important
leads would be information leading to Zawahiri, who they
believe might be on the move as a result of the raid.

The WSJ quoting officials briefed on the matter said US
intelligence agencies believed Zawahiri and other al Qaeda
leaders may speed up terror plans in the pipeline to prove al-
Qaeda`s vitality.

Giving a peep into the early assessment from US
officials about the bin Laden operation, it said the strike
team went into his compound armed with the detailed
Sensitive-Site Exploitation plan, which spells out for team
members under fire and with limited time which items need to be
extracted from a hostile location and how.

The plan was rehearsed by team members in advance of
the raid, officials said.

They said the SEAL team was supposed to be inside the
compound for no more than 30 minutes, but encountered heavy
resistance and had to destroy their disable Black Hawk
helicopter and therefore the operation lasted about eight
minutes longer than planned.

Officials said bin Laden wasn`t found destroying
equipment or documents as the strike team closed in. It is
unclear if others made an effort to destroy data.

"It appears they were more interested in fighting their
way out than destroying anything, one official said.

PTI