`ISI chief knows Mullah Omar’s hideout`

Ex-Afghan spy chief said Mullah Omar was hiding in a safe house in Karachi.

Kabul: Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha has been protecting Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Afghanistan`s former spy chief Amrullah Saleh has said.

Saleh said he had no doubts that Mullah Omar was hiding in a safe house owned by Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the ISI, in the city of Karachi.

"He is protected by ISI. General Pasha knows as I am talking to you where is Mullah Omar, and he keeps daily briefs from his officers about the location of senior Taliban leaders, simple," the Guardian quoted Saleh, as saying.

Saleh was speaking to the newspaper soon after addressing a rally of several thousand Afghans in Kabul organised as a show of strength of what he called Afghanistan`s "anti-Taliban constituency", who are alarmed at the prospect of peace talks with insurgents.

The killing of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, who was sheltered by the Taliban regime in the 1990s, has prompted heady speculation that an "end game" to the 10-year conflict is now at hand, with the Afghan government and the Taliban-led insurgency striking a deal.

Bin Laden, who had evaded capture for a decade, was killed on Sunday night in a top secret operation involving a small team of US Special Forces in Abbottabad city, located 50 kilometres northeast of Islamabad and 150 kilometres east of Peshawar.

American and European intelligence officials increasingly believe that active or retired Pakistani military or intelligence officials provided some measure of aid to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, allowing him to stay hidden in a large compound just a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, according to another report.

"There`s no doubt he [bin Laden] was protected by some in the ISI," The Wall Street Journal quoted a high-level European military-intelligence official who has direct working knowledge of the ISI, as saying.

The officials said 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 officials did not offer specific evidence, but pointed to the town`s proximity to the capital and its high concentration of current and former military and intelligence officers, said the report, adding that they said that aid to bin Laden likely included intelligence tips to help keep the terrorist ahead of his American pursuers.

Meanwhile, Pakistan denies that it knew of bin Laden`s whereabouts or sheltered him.