PHOTO/FILE Slain Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Retired brigadier Shaukat Qadir says he spent eight months investigating the Al-Qaeda chief’s life in Pakistan, using his army connections to visit the villa where he lived and died, and securing access to confidential documents.
He says he spoke to Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents who interrogated bin Laden’s wives and saw their interview transcripts, all thanks to a close relationship with Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani.
He has no evidence, but offers a tantalising image of a frail man resigned to death and betrayed through one of his wives in an Al-Qaeda plot — which if true would shed new light on the demise of the world’s most-wanted man.
“Al-Qaeda decided to retire him in 2003. He was going mentally senile. From 2001, he had some kind of degenerative disease and was coming up with fantasies,” Qadir said.
He says his theories are his alone, but admits he may have been manipulated by the army and acknowledges that his account suits the ISI, which is still fending off suspicions of incompetence or complicity in sheltering bin Laden.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor often considered the real brains behind Al-Qaeda, “got fed up and decided to sideline” bin Laden when the leader started losing his mental faculties after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Qadir says bin Laden moved frequently between hiding places in northwest Pakistan before Al-Qaeda decided Abbottabad was the perfect spot and built a home shielded by a towering wall for him, two of his wives and their children.
Bin Laden moved into a bedroom on the third floor with his youngest and reputedly favourite wife, Amal Abdulfattah, the Yemeni he married in 1999 and who gave birth to two children in Abbottabad.
For years, Qadir believes, the family got on well, but things changed in March 2011 when bin Laden’s older Saudi wife, Khairia, suddenly turned up for the first time since the family was separated in late 2001.
At that time, she had fled Afghanistan into Iran, rather than into Pakistan with the rest of the family.