x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Pakistanis worried about fallout of Osama's killing in their country

Pakistanis are apprehensive about possible repercussions of the killing of Osama bin Laden in their country .

ABBOTTABAD, PAKISTAN // For years, Pakistani officials had denied that Osama bin Laden was hiding in the country and insisted that he had died several years ago. But he kept turning up, often in mountainous areas.

However, his last refuge was not in a remote spot but a scenic military town just 50km from Islamabad.

Pakistanis yesterday were apprehensive about the repercussions of the killing of the world's most wanted man. Many expressed fears that the country would face reprisals by the United States because Pakistan clearly had refused to co-operate in US efforts to track down bin Laden.

On the other hand, some wondered if the country's intelligence agency had been too co-operative. Several al Qa'eda leaders have been caught or killed in Pakistan recently. That has raised the possibility that the remaining leaders might also be in the country. Some analysts said this would put further pressure on Pakistan to co-operate more with the US.

Official reaction from Pakistan came more than six hours after US president Barack Obama announced that the raid had been a success. The reaction was cautious.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said that intelligence sharing was involved but added that he did not have details about the raid. A spokesperson for the Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, also said that it was a "joint intelligence operation" but did not provide details.

"We have had extremely effective intelligence-sharing arrangements with several intelligence agencies including that of the US. We will continue to support international efforts against terrorism," a statement released by the Pakistani foreign office said.

"It is Pakistan's stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in terrorist attacks against any country. Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate terrorism."

Some Pakistani analysts said the killing was a serious setback for al Qa'eda.

"This is a very big incident and would weaken al Qa'eda," said Asad Munir, a retired general and ISI official. "This would lead to further division of al Qa'eda. Globally, all the affiliate organisations would suffer and would temporarily be weakened," Mr Munir was quoted as saying by GEO TV.

Mr Munir speculated that the US special forces conducted the operation after getting intelligence co-operation from the Pakistani side.

"It is not possible that America alone executed this operation. Both the countries would have participated in this operation," Mr Munir said. "The US has never executed any ground operation all alone."

In Abbottabad, there was disbelief that bin Laden was hiding in a middle-class neighbourhood within a half kilometre of the Pakistan Military Academy, where officers train.

But there was no sense of panic in most of the town. Shopping areas remained busy and there were no signs of protest by Islamist groups.

Army troops barricaded roads leading to the house and stopped journalists who approached. The house is far from the main road and surrounded by fields. It had high walls topped with barbed wire. Residents said the inhabitants appeared to be very Islamic and did not interact with neighbours.