Fears for safety of doctor linked to CIA Bin Laden vaccine plan

Shakil Afridi, who helped track down Osama bin Laden using DNA samples, is being held by ISI in Pakistan

Shakil Afridi worked for the CIA in the weeks leading up to the raid on the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad. Photograph: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Saeed Shah
Guardian [UK]
12 July 2011

Fears are growing for the safety of the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA search for Osama bin Laden, as relations between Islamabad and Washington move closer towards breakdown.

Pakistan threatened to pull its soldiers off its side of the border with Afghanistan on Tuesday in a tit-for-tat move after the US said it would hold back $800m (£500m) of military aid.

The doctor who helped the CIA, Shakil Afridi, is being held by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency.

The Guardian has revealed that Afridi had worked for the CIA in the weeks leading up to the raid on the Bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, northern Pakistan, in an attempt to collect DNA samples from those who lived in the house. The intelligence agency wanted to confirm suspicions that the al-Qaida leader and his family were hiding there.

The detention of Afridi has introduced further tension to US-Pakistani ties, which had already been damaged by the killing of Bin Laden by US forces on 2 May. Washington is concerned that Pakistan is not hunting down the network that kept Bin Laden in Abbottabad for five years but is instead on a witch-hunt for those who helped the CIA track him down.

The doctor, a senior government employee, was initially detained in Peshawar in the north-west but may have been transferred to custody in Islamabad. It is thought that he has not been formally charged, which is not unusual for someone being held by the ISI. The Pakistani authorities are holding him for working for a foreign intelligence agency, which carries harsh punishment, including the death penalty.

The Guardian story was headline news in Pakistan on Tuesday but so far, government officials have offered no comment.

The CIA was never sure that Bin Laden was hiding in the Abbottabad house, so the Pakistani doctor, who would have been paid handsomely for his work for the CIA, was hired to try to collect DNA samples from those in the house to see if they were Bin Laden family members. Afridi set up a fake vaccination programme to get access to the Bin Laden compound.

The article continues at the Guardian.

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