Phone gives clues to bin Laden’s Pakistan links-NYT

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – A cell phone found in the  raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan contained contacts  to a militant group with ties to Pakistan’s intelligence  agency, The New York Times reported on Thursday, citing senior  U.S. officials briefed on the findings.

Osama bin Laden

The discovery indicated that bin Laden used the group,  Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, as part of his support network inside  Pakistan, the newspaper said, citing the officials and others  sources it did not identify.

The cell phone belonged to bin Laden’s courier, who was  killed along with the al Qaeda leader in the May 2 raid by U.S.  special forces on bin Laden’s compound in the garrison town of  Abbottabad, the Times said.

A CIA spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the report.

The United States kept Islamabad in the dark about the raid  by Navy SEALs until after it was completed, humiliating  Pakistan’s armed forces and putting U.S. military and  intelligence ties under serious strain.

In tracing calls on the cell phone, U.S. analysts  determined that Harakat commanders had called Pakistani  intelligence officials, the Times reported, citing the senior  American officials.

The officials added the contacts were not necessarily about  bin Laden and his protection and that there was no “smoking  gun” showing that Pakistan’s spy agency had protected bin  Laden, the newspaper said.

The newspaper quoted one of the officials as saying the  cell phone analysis was a “serious lead” in the hunt for  answers about how bin Laden managed to evade notice by  Pakistan’s spy agency or military for years in the town, only  30 miles (50 km) from the capital.

The newspaper quoted analysts familiar with Harakat as  saying it had deep roots in the area around Abbottabad. Its  leaders have strong ties with both al Qaeda and Pakistani  intelligence, the Times said.

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