President Barack Obama says Osama bin Laden had a group of supporters within Pakistan helping to keep the al Qaeda leader secure for years, despite an American-led international manhunt that extended for nearly a decade with Islamabad’s ostensible support.
The comments, the strongest about Pakistan made by Mr Obama so far, came as his administration ramped up pressure on Islamabad for a full investigation into who gave him sanctuary so close to Islamabad
He said: “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don’t know who or what that support network was.”
“We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”
In an interview with CBS News, Mr Obama confirmed that the US would not be releasing the photographs of bin Laden’s body.
He said: “Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain this was him. We’ve done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden. It is important for us to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence. As a propaganda tool. You know, that’s not who we are. You know, we don’t trot out this stuff as trophies.
Mr Obama said: “There’s no doubt that Bin Laden is dead. Certainly there’s no doubt among al-Qaeda members that he is dead. And so we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.”
On Friday al-Qaeda released a statement confirming bin Laden’s death and promising to release his last tape. On Sunday an Islamist website claimed to have a copy of the audio recording, which was addressed to President Barack Obama.
In it bin Laden said: “America will not be able to dream of security until we live in security in Palestine. It is unfair that you live in peace while our brothers in Gaza live in insecurity.”
“Accordingly, and with the will of God, our attacks will continue against you as long as your support for Israel continues.”
Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, demanded that Pakistan allow the CIA to question the three widows of bin Laden left behind in his compound after last Sunday’s raid.
He told NBC that the US hadn’t “seen evidence” of Pakistani collusion, hinting that the White House was far from convinced on the issue.
“And they need to provide us with intelligence, by the way, from the compound that they’ve gathered, including access to Osama bin Laden’s three wives who they have in custody.”
Pakistan had been holding three of Osama bin Laden’s widows and eight of his children since the American raid that killed the Saudi jihadist, an adult son, a woman and two brothers who owned the compound.
Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, 27, his fifth and youngest wife was shot in the leg as she attempted to protect her husband. The Yemeni woman is said to have told her Pakistani interrogators that she had lived in the Abbottabad compound for six years.
On Saturday the US released five video clips, one of which showed bin Laden in his Pakistan compound watching news coverage of himself on a small television. He was wrapped in a blanket and sporting an unkempt grey-white beard in an image very different to those on the tapes he recorded for his al-Qadea followers.
The footage was part of a large haul of intelligence discovered at the compound. Mr Donilon said yesterday: “This is the largest cache of intelligence derived from the scene of any single terrorist. It’s about the size, the CIA tells us, of a small college library.”
The Pentagon said that the evidence showed bin Laden was running a “command and control” centre from the compound and was still a central part of masterminding al-Qaeda plots.
Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said on Sunday that bin Laden’s death was no cause for complacency. “Clearly what it says is al-Qaeda is still alive and well and still poses a threat not only to the UK but to all free countries in the world.
“We do need to maintain our guard and we have to watch countries like the Yemen, which is slowly declining and possibly falling into a failed state, which of course would give a boost to al-Qaeda. We have to keep up our guard in a lot of places and it is not an option for us.”