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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 22 April 2021

How the CIA tried to find Osama bin Laden

A fake vaccination programme was organised in the town where the Al Qaeda leader was hiding but did it work?

Graffiti on a wall near the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
Graffiti on a wall near the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
Image: Anjum Naveed/AP/Press Association Images

THE CIA ORGANISED a fake vaccination programme to try and determine for definite that Osama bin Laden was hiding out in the Pakistani town where he was eventually found and killed in May.

The Guardian has revealed that CIA agents recruited a senior Pakistani doctor to organise a fake vaccine drive which was aimed at confirming their suspicions that bin Laden was hiding out in a walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan which the agency was monitoring by satellite and a nearby surveillance house.

The CIA hoped that DNA from the bin Laden children in the compound could be compared to DNA taken from his sister who died last year. It is not known whether the plan actually worked with one source telling the paper it failed.

Nonetheless bin Laden was killed in a raid on 1 May by a US Navy SEAL team.

It has also been reported by the Guardian the doctor who organised the fake vaccination programme has since been arrested by Pakistani intelligence services for co-operation with US intelligence in another sign of the growing strain in relations between the US and Pakistan.

Over the weekend the Obama administration suspended some $800 million in military aid to its ally in its fight against terrorism.

Read more from Saeed Shah’s story in today’s Guardian >

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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