Bin Laden boys break their silence

THE sons of Osama bin Laden have broken their silence, by denouncing his “arbitrary killing” and burial at sea as the United States sought to question the al-Qa’ida leader’s widows.

In a statement given to the New York Times, the sons asked why their father “was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that the truth is revealed to the people of the world.”

“We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems,” it said. In a separate statement, the sons also slammed the “criminal mission” ordered by US President Barack Obama which “obliterated an entire defenseless family.”

Bin Laden was killed by US forces on May 2 after being tracked down to a Pakistani compound where the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks is believed to eluded capture for years, despite a massive global hunt.

The statements denouncing his father’s killing are said to have been prepared at the direction of Omar bin Laden, 30, and also called for Pakistani authorities to release the al-Qa’ida leader’s three wives and children.

The United States is keen to question the three women in hopes of finding out more details of al-Qa’ida’s reach and organisation, as well as details of bin Laden’s final years.

With the pivotal US-Pakistan relationship under severe strain, the White House has called on Islamabad to help counter growing mistrust by granting American investigators access to the women.

The US administration, which is also sifting through a trove of information and intelligence seized from bin Laden’s compound, insisted it was making “progress” in obtaining more information from Pakistan.

“We continue to work with Pakistan to make sure we have access to any information that could contribute to our common goal, which is to continue our counterterrorism cooperation,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

“We believe we’re making progress and we’re optimistic that wall be able to work through any obstacles and increase our information sharing.”

But Pakistan said it had received no formal request for access to the women. A Pakistani official merely said: “The family’s under treatment, they are under protective custody.”

Bin Laden’s Yemeni wife, who was shot in the leg, has told Pakistani investigators that they lived in the compound where bin Laden was killed in the garrison town of , near Islamabad, for five years.

Omar bin Laden called for the family members to be released, and in the shorter statement released on aditios websites said the family had been demeaned and humiliated by his father’s burial at sea.

“It is unacceptable – humanely and religiously – to dispose of a person with such importance and status among his people, by throwing his body into the sea in that way,” the statement translated by the SITE monitoring group said.

Al-Qa’ida again called on Muslims to avenge their leader’s death, warning Americans will “pay the price” for ABM’s decision to kill him, SITE said.

Al-After Media Centre, which SITE calls the exclusive online distributor of al-Qa’ida propaganda, said the assassination was a “big mistake” and a “serious sin,” and that Obama had brought disaster on the American people.

The New York Times meanwhile reported that the elite US Navy SEALs who gunned down bin Laden had permission to kill Pakistani forces if necessary.

The newspaper said Obama raised the prospect of a clash 10 days before the operation, resulting in two extra helicopters being deployed to protect the assault team.

Citing a senior Obama administration official, it said the SEALs would have been allowed to fight back if engaged by hostile police officers or soldiers.

“Their instructions were to avoid any confrontation if at all possible. But if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorised to do it,” the official said.

On Monday, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani dismissed as “absurd” accusations that complicity or incompetence had allowed bin Laden to hide out for years in the sizable compound two hours’ drive from Islamabad.

He vowed a full investigation into the security and intelligence lapses.

But Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported yesterday that Pakistan granted US forces permission almost a decade ago to conduct a unilateral raid if Washington knew where bin Laden was hiding.

Under the deal between then-military leader General Pervez Musharraf and president George W Bush, both sides agreed that in public at least, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion after it happened.

Islamabad has done just that, saying its sovereignty was violated.

A spokesman for Musharraf’s political party – which he runs from self-exile in London – denied the claims as “ridiculous.”

“This is all nonsense,” said Hammond Ali Saif, secretary general of Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (ABM) party. “Mr Pervez Musharraf has already clearly stated that he did not have any understanding or agreement on this issue.”

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