A Pakistani family watches the destruction of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad Feb. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed, File), Pakistan. (Anjum Naveed, File/AP)
Osama bin Laden's final months don't sound all that happy or stress-free. Before he was killed by a U.S. Navy Seal team this past May, the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks endured nasty squabbling between two of his wives as well as a power grab, where his deputy in al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, effectively sidelined him. The details come from an unpublished investigation by a retired Pakistani general reported on by the New York Times Thursday.
Retired Pakistani Army brigadier general Shaukat Qadir set out in the wake of the U.S. raid last year "to truth-check the competing accounts of bin Laden's last years in Pakistan," the New York Times' Declan Walsh reports. The result of Qadir's investigation is a "novella-length report, still officially unpublished [that] offers tantalizing possibilities about bin Laden's circumstances and the suspicions that drove relations between Pakistan and the United States to the brink."
Because of his senior Pakistani military connections, Qadir was given rare access to bin Laden's former compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad where he conducted his investigation. (The compound was razed by the Pakistani government last month.) Those same ties, however, have also generated some doubts about the veracity of his findings, given Pakistani officials' vehement denials that anyone from the Pakistani security establishment knew the fugitive al-Qaida leader was holed up in the country.
Among the more tantalizing of Qadir's findings: the claim that bin Laden had a kidney transplant in 2002, according to what bin Laden's youngest wife, Amal Ahmed al-Sadah, told Pakistani interrogators. The allegation, if verified, "could help explain how the ailing Saudi militant was able to survive with a known kidney ailment," Walsh writes, "but raises questions about who was helping him." (Recall that American officials for years wondered aloud how an over 6-foot-tall Saudi with a dialysis machine could survive in the Hindu Kush mountains without attracting attention from locals.)
Qadir's account also delves into bin Laden's home life, describing it as vexed by "poisonous mistrust" between two of his five wives: Sadah, the terrorist leader's fifth and youngest wife (who naturally described herself as his favorite to her Pakistani interrogator), and his older first wife, Khairiah Saber, who lived with her family on another floor of the compound. "In the cramped Abbottabad house, [Qadir] was told, tensions erupted" between the two women, Walsh reports.
Indeed, the rivalry was so bitter, according to Qadir's account, that Sadah accused her older rival wife of ratting out their fugitive husband to U.S. spies.Read More »from Bin Laden’s wives: The terrorist leader endured squabbling spouses and a power struggle his last months, says one account