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Pakistan's ISI gives own take on bin Laden raid

Osama Compound

Pakistan's national intelligence agency, the ISI, offered new details Tuesday on the military assault that killed Osama bin Laden in an account that differed somewhat from the United States' version of events.

An ISI official who spoke anonymously to the BBC also said the agency was embarrassed by its intelligence failures, including apparently not knowing that the al Qaeda leader had been living for years in a suburban area dominated by the Pakistani military.

The official said that the ISI had raided the compound in 2003 -- before bin Laden took up residency there -- but that it had fallen off the intelligence radar since then.

He also said that Bin Laden's daughter -- aged 12 or 13 -- witnessed her father's slaying during the U.S. military raid Sunday.

The Killing of Osama bin Laden

The ISI official's account differs in places from the version offered by U.S. officials. The official said that there were 17 to 18 people in the compound at the time of the attack and that the Americans took away one prisoner, possibly a bin Laden son. The U.S. has said that there were 23 children and nine women in the compound in addition to those killed in the raid, and all were turned over to Pakistani authorities.

The official said the remaining people left in the house were found tied up and suggested that U.S. forces may have been planning to take them away but abandoned the plan due to a helicopter that malfunctioned.

There are reasons to be skeptical of the anonymous official's version of events. Documents recently released by WikiLeaks show that U.S. officials consider the ISI to be a terrorist group similar to Hamas or Hezbollah, and the U.S. has been grappling with ongoing questions about Pakistan's reliability as a partner in fighting terrorism.

The claim that ISI agents raided the compound in 2003 are also dubious, since U.S. intelligence indicates it was only built in 2005.

Of course, official U.S. accounts of such charged events are not free from falsehoods. After initially reporting that bin Laden used a woman as a human shield, officials backtracked from that account..

The CIA and the ISI have worked closely together since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to hunt down al Qaeda operatives sheltering in Pakistan. But U.S. officials have often voiced suspicions that elements of the ISI were either linked to or supporting militants even as the two countries publicly talked of their alliance in the campaign against extremism.

Relations between the two agencies hit a new low this year after an American CIA contractor shot and killed two Pakistanis he claimed were robbing him. Since then, the ISI has complained about American drones strikes along the Afghan border and the alleged existence of scores of CIA agents in the country without its knowledge.

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