The BBC on Tuesday quoted an official of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as claiming that it was “totally caught by surprise” by the U.S. commando operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed in a compound in Abbottabad, a garrison town 100 km from Islamabad. The intelligence “failure” was an “embarrassment” for the agency, he said.
The claim would fuel speculation about Pakistan's exact role in the circumstances leading to the discovery and death of the al-Qaeda leader.
“We were totally caught by surprise. They were in and out before we could react,” he reportedly told the BBC's Islamabad correspondent Owen Bennett-Jones, denying local residents' claims that Pakistani soldiers had asked them to switch off their lights an hour before the attack.
The official, who was not named, said the compound was “not on our radar.” It was raided in 2003 when under construction, but since then “the compound was not on our radar, it is an embarrassment for the ISI.”
Declaring “We're good, but we're not God,” he said: “This one failure should not make us look totally incompetent. Look at our track record. For the last 10 years, we have captured Taliban and al-Qaeda [militants] in their hundreds — more than any other countries put together.”
The official gave what the BBC described as “new or differing accounts” of Sunday's events. He claimed Osama's young daughter, aged 12 or 13, had said she saw her father shot. He said there were 17-18 people in the compound at the time of the attack and the Americans took away one person still alive, possibly a son of Osama.
Those who survived the attack included a wife, a daughter and eight or nine other children, “not apparently bin Laden's.” All had their hands tied by the Americans. His surviving Yemeni wife said they had moved to the compound a few months ago, according to the official.