The United States wants access to three widows of Osama bin Laden being held by Pakistani authorities, something that could help answer questions about whether any officials knew the al-Qaida chief was living in the country, a top American official said.
Pakistan authorities were not immediately available for comment today on the demand, which could be a fresh sticking point between the two countries. US-Pakistani relations were frayed before the unilateral US raid, and appear to have worsened since.
Information from the three women left behind in the house after American commandos killed bin Laden could also reveal the day-to-day life of bin Laden, what he has done since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the workings of al-Qaida. Several children were also taken into custody, some or all of them believed to be bin Laden’s.
The al-Qaida chief was found in a large house close to a military academy in the army town of Abbottabad where he had been living for up to six years. His location raised suspicions that some Pakistani authorities, possibly elements of the powerful army and intelligence services, could have been colluding with him.
US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told NBC’s Meet the Press that Washington had seen no evidence that the government was colluding with bin Laden. But he said that Pakistani authorities “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”.
Mr Donilon also said Pakistani authorities had collected other evidence from the house which the United States wanted to “work with them on assessing”. The commandos seized a large and valuable intelligence haul that included videos, telephone numbers and documents, according to US officials.
The Pakistani government has strongly denied it knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts, but Western governments have long regarded Islamabad with suspicion. Its armed forces have historical – some would say ongoing – links with Islamist militants, which they used as proxies in Afghanistan and India.
The American commandos killed bin Laden and up to four other people, including one of his sons, at the compound.
They took the body of bin Laden and quickly buried it at sea.
At least three women, identified by Pakistan and US officials as bin Laden’s wives, and several children were left behind at the compound. Pakistani officials have given little information, some of it conflicting, about the identities of the women and children, their numbers and what they allegedly have been saying.