Washington: The United States is pressing Pakistan to release Dr Shakil Afridi, who has been arrested by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) for helping the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) track down al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.
Dr Afridi was arrested after the ISI discovered that he had been recruited by CIA agents to run a fake vaccination programme in Abbottabad in an elaborate attempt to obtain DNA samples of bin Laden’s family members.
According to The Guardian, American authorities are now trying to rescue the Pakistani doctor, his wife and children, and take them to the US.
Dr Afridi, in his late 40s, is thought to have been detained in late May or early June, and is not thought to have been charged.
He is being held for working for a foreign intelligence agency, which can be punishable by the death penalty.
The British newspaper had earlier revealed that the vaccination plan was conceived after US intelligence officers tracked an al Qaeda courier to what turned out to be bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound last summer.
The agency monitored the compound by satellite and surveillance from a local CIA safe house in Abbottabad, but wanted confirmation that bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country.
DNA from any of the bin Laden children in the compound could have been compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.
It is not known exactly how Dr Afridi hoped to get DNA from the vaccinations, although nurses could have been trained to withdraw some blood in the needle after administrating the drug.