The assassination of former al Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces May 1, 2011, might have been unnecessary if a Pakistani police officer had done his job properly years before that episode. According to a report in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, an automobile carrying the man who was responsible for the 9-11 attacks and many other terror acts was pulled over for speeding by Pakistani police in the Swat Valley in 2002 or 2003. It is unclear why the driver and occupants were let go -- either the policeman was bribed or he simply did not recognize that the world’s most wanted man was a passenger in the car.
According to an official investigation by the Abbottabad Commission of the Pakistani government that was obtained by Al Jazeera, bin Laden, his family and two couriers along with their families would periodically drive to the bazaar and marketplace when they lived in the Swat Valley in northern Pakistan. The information came from a woman named Maryam, the wife of one of bin Laden's bodyguards, Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, during her testimony to Pakistani investigators. She said her husband “quickly settled” the matter with the police. Maryam also told probers that she did not even recognize bin Laden, who at the time was clean-shaven.
The document from the Islamabad government unearthed other strange and fascinating details of bin Laden's secret life in Pakistan. Among other things, his walled-in compound in Abbottabad (where he ultimately was killed) was fitted with “four separate meters for electricity and natural gas, respectively, in an apparent attempt to ensure that none of the meters showed an excessive amount of activity, betraying the true number of residents.”
Bizarrely, bin Laden was even fond of wearing that most American of fashion apparel -- a cowboy hat. The report also discussed his eating habits. “Bin Laden, who reportedly suffered from various ailments, particularly in his kidneys and possibly his heart, would sometimes complain of sluggishness, and, on those occasions, he would eat some chocolate and/or an apple, according to the commission’s findings,” the document said.
On a more serious note, the report claimed that bin Laden likely entered Pakistan in the summer of 2002 after fleeing capture at the Battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001. While residing in Swat Valley in early 2003, he apparently met with Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the man who actually masterminded the 9/11 attacks against the United States. Mohammad was captured in Rawalpindi one month later, and bin Laden promptly departed Swat.
Osama, along with two of his wives and several children and grandchildren, then moved to the town if Haripur in northern Pakistan. They apparently lived there for two years until the summer of 2005, when they moved to the compound in Abbottabad, near the capital Islamabad.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.