South Asia

US officials get access to Bin Laden wives in Pakistan

Passport picture of Bin Laden's widow, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada
Image caption One of Bin Laden's widows has said he lived in Pakistan for more than seven years

US officials have had access to three of Osama Bin Laden's widows in Pakistan, the White House has said.

Spokesman Jay Carney gave no further details, but the US wants to obtain information about the al-Qaeda leader's life since he disappeared in late 2001.

The women were taken into Pakistani custody after surviving the raid by US commandos on Bin Laden's compound in the city of Abbottabad on 2 May.

One official said interviews with them had not been particularly forthcoming.

Pakistan has said it will repatriate the widows and their children. One of the women is from Yemen; the other two are from Saudi Arabia.

Analysts say they could offer rare details about his life on the run.

One of the wives has told Pakistani investigators that he lived in Pakistan for more than seven years. Another has said she moved to Abbottabad in 2006, a year after their home was built, and had never left its upper floors.

Before the raid, Bin Laden's whereabouts had been unknown since he escaped from the mountains of Tora Bora in southern Afghanistan during an assault by US and Afghan forces in December 2001.

Reports of Guantanamo Bay interrogations published by Wikileaks quote one of Bin Laden's aides, Awar Gul, as saying he fled from Tora Bora to the Afghan city of Jalalabad and then to the north-eastern province of Kunar, rather than to Pakistan, where the US focused its search.

And instead of later heading as the US thought to the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, the Guantanamo documents suggest Bin Laden headed to Khwar, which is only 40 miles (70km) from Abbottabad, according to the Associated Press.

'Trust deficit'

Relations between Pakistan and the US have deteriorated since it emerged that the al-Qaeda leader managed to live without detection for five years about a kilometre from Pakistan Military Academy.

Pakistan's government is angry that it was not told about the raid and that its sovereignty was violated. US officials have meanwhile questioned whether the Inter-Services Intelligence agency knew Bin Laden's location.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has said there is a widening rift between the allies, that they differ on how to fight terrorism, and that relations between the ISI and the CIA have broken down.

"I have not met or spoken to [US officials] since [the raid]," he told Time magazine. "Whatever information we are receiving is from the media."

"When there's a trust deficit, there will be problems in intelligence sharing," he warned.

On Friday, the chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen Khalid Shameem Wynne, cancelled an forthcoming five-day visit to the US, an official told the BBC. No reason was given for the decision.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites