Five new video clips of Osama bin Laden released by the Pentagon on Saturday give us a glimpse of his secret life and have revealed that the deceased Al Qaeda leader was in active command of Al Qaeda and more than just a figurehead.
According to the Pentagon, bin Laden was a crafty leader, who maintained a carefully-manicured image for his videos that were released to the public.
Most importantly, though bin Laden was living in the mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the compound was an active command and control center, a top US intelligence official said. He was active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions within Al Qaeda.
This contradicts a statement made earlier this week by a Pakistani intelligence official that al Qaeda had divided into two factions and bin Laden was just a reduced figurehead, controlling the smaller faction.
While four video clips show bin Laden reading from a script, well-manicured and wearing a spotless white cap and shirt and yellow tunic, one video shows him in a non-propaganda moment. It shows bin Laden older than his age, wearing a black wool cap and a brown blanket draped round his shoulders. Interestingly, he is seen in front of the table, apparently cross-legged on a carpeted floor, using a remote control to flick between satellite video coverage and images of himself on a television screen. The video, which runs for over a minute, also showed bin Laden stroking his unkempt grey beard, not the usual black beard sported by him in propaganda videos.
One of the four recordings, which were meant for public consumption, was entitled Message to the American People. It possibly contained the usual diatribe against the West and capitalism and was a call for Jihad. It was made sometime between October 9 and November 5. All the five videos have been silenced as the Pentagon is worried that the messages could be inflammatory.
The five video clips are part of a trove of information, including computer hard-drives, thumb drives, mobile phones and documents (both handwritten documents and printed material), which the U.S. special ops forces seized from last Monday's raid.
The U.S. intelligence officials are sifting through the data and initial conclusion is that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan for more than seven years.
Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, one of bin Laden's wives, has also told Pakistani investigators that bin Laden and his family had lived in a a quiet hill village of Chak Shah Mohammad for the first two and half years before before to to Abbottabad five years back.
The revelation has prompted U.S. officials to believe that Pakistan had knowingly sheltered bin Laden and and could possibly be sheltiering al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri and Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
It is being made very clear at the highest back-channel levels that enough is enough. The era of holding back and diplomatic niceties is over, Dan Goure, a Pentagon consultant, said.
The message is that when find them, we will go after them, and that for the Pakistanis it would be much better for their reputation and for their aid budget if they acted first, he said.
The Five New Videos of Osama bin Laden