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Bin Laden's proximity to Pakistani army base raises questions

But Pakistan’s president Asir Ali Zardari says bin Laden “was not anywhere we had anticipated” and that Pakistan played an essential role in helping the US track down the al-Qaeda leader.

Image: AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq

THE LOCATION OF the luxury compound where Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US forces on Suday has raised questions over Pakistan’s intelligence and the country’s possible support for the al-Qaeda leader.

Pakistan’s President Zardari said that the compound assault was not a joint operation with Pakistani authorities, who were kept in the dark about the planned attack until after it had been carried out.

Although the government has denied all knowledge of bin Laden’s presence in the small city of Abbottabad in the north-west of the country, his compound was located just streets away (about 1km) from a major Pakistani army installation which the Guardian describes as “Pakistan’s Sandhurst”.

Local trader Azhar Khan said he couldn’t believe Osama bin Laden was really there: “This is a sensitive place, full of military and intelligence agencies. You can’t live here for years without anyone knowing”.

However, the former station chief of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI says that could be exactly the reason bin Laden chose Abbottabad as a hideout. “Personally I feel that he must have thought it was the safest area,” said Asad Munir, “Abbottabad is a place no one would expect him to live”.

For years, Western intelligence claimed bin Laden was mostly likely hiding in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Now, US senators are accusing Pakistan of playing a double game which requires a lot of explaining.

Zardari wrote in the Washington Post that although the operation was not carried out in conjunction with Pakistani troops, the US-Pakistani partnership in the past decade “led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden”.

He said Pakistan had “paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism” and that he had sought justice against bin Laden, both politically and personally.

Watch: Eyewitness to the assault on bin Laden’s compound describes the event:

- Additional reporting by the AP

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Meet the ‘Seal Team 6′, the crackshots who killed bin Laden >

Gallery: The White House watches as bin Laden is slain >

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