A cellphone of Osama bin Laden's trusted courier seized by U.S. forces shows links between the former Al Qaeda leader and a militant group connected to Pakistan's intelligence agency, the New York Times reports.
U.S. forces recovered the phone during a raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, last month. Bin Laden and his courier were killed during the raid, which was conducted by a Navy SEALS team.
The phone reportedly shows that bin Laden used the militant group Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen as part of his support network when he lived in Pakistan. The group has been mentored by Pakistan's spy agency, which allowed it to continue operating in Pakistan for 20 years.
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It remains unclear if the group helped shelter bin Laden on behalf of Pakistan's spy agency. But the phone might help explain how bin Laden was able to live in a town dominated by the Pakistani military and only a few hours from Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.
“It’s a serious lead,” an American official told the Times. “It’s an avenue we’re investigating.”
The phone discovery might also provide clues as to how bin Laden escaped from the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan nearly 10 years ago when American forces tried to capture him, it states.
Harakat has deep roots in Abbottabad and the strong ties with the area may have been why bin Laden chose to live there and managed to survive undetected for years.
The Pakistan-based group, described in detail here, is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States. It has conducted raids on Indian security positions and is active in Kashmir, reports AFP.
Meanwhile, bin Laden's youngest wife, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, is expected to leave Pakistan and return to her homeland, Yemen, in the following few days. U.S. forces have been holding Sadah, 29, since the May 2 raid on bin Laden's compound.