For the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden was able to spend the decade after the 9/11 in relative comfort – that’s the story that emerges from the testimony of his youngest wife.
And it raises the question – while all this time the Pakistani authorities claimed to be fighting terrorism, just how hard were they looking for the man responsible for killing thousands of innocent civilians?
The official testimony of Amal Ahmad Abdul Fateh, one of Bin Laden’s three widows, given to the Pakistani police has surfaced in a Pakistani English-language daily Dawn, reveals that while George W Bush was trying to “smoke terrorists out of their holes”, their leader was living in a series of villas and leading a rich marital life. For the last six years, Bin Laden was even able to build a permanent family home.
Abdul Fateh says that the family felt in danger only once – when US helicopters flew over their compound in 2005 on their way to deliver aid after an earthquake.
Most surprisingly, Bin Laden fathered four children with Abdul Fateh between 2003 and 2008. What’s more, two of them were delivered in a public state hospital, using a ruse no more complex than a set of forged documents.
‘To marry a mujahid’
Aged just 18, Abdul Fateh came into Pakistan on a three-month visa in 2000, with one desire – “to marry a mujahid” (an Islamic holy warrior). Her desire came true almost immediately.
Following the Bin Laden-orchestrated September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the family clan separated, but soon after Abdul Fateh was able to join her husband in the large city of Peshawar.
After that came the only time Bin Laden truly had to hide in the mountains, moving to North-West Pakistan, but not the tribal belt, on which the United States focused its terrorist hunt. After that, the family lived in a rented house just 80 miles from the capital Islamabad, before moving once again.
For the last six years of his life, the world’s foremost terrorist lived in a spacious villa in Abbottabad, just minutes away from Pakistan’s elite military academy.
Although a chaotic country mired in internal conflict and corruption provided a convenient place for Bin Laden to cover his tracks, the ease with which he was able to hide is astonishing. After all, despite Pakistan’s claims throughout the period to be the US’s staunch ally in fighting terrorism, it is hard to believe no one in the country’s powerful intelligence services could figure out the runaway terrorist’s whereabouts.
Abdul Fateh stayed with her husband right until the end – and was shot in the leg by a US marine as she ran to her husband’s defense during the final assault on his hideout.
The three Bin Laden widows are currently being held in Islamabad, and face up to five years in prison for illegally entering and staying in Pakistan.