It has been six years today after the 9-11 attacks on the US by Al Qaeda. Yet Osama is out at large. How did he escape arrest? It is a tale of carelessness and apathy on part of the US and some smart maneuvering on part on part of Al Qaeda and Osama. Here is an account of how Osama survived from a top Pakistani journalist who has been privy to this information. It is also instructive to read the account of the author’s own experience while interviewing Osama.
He told how he and his ‘Sheikh’ survived the American carpet bombing for many days in the Tora Bora mountains of eastern Afgahnistan. It was the third week of December 2001 when Osama and his fighters — with the help of Haji Zahir, Haji Zaman and Hazrat Ali — broke the circle created by Americans around them.
The majority of Al Qaeda fighters entered the Kurram tribal area of Pakistan from Tora Bora, but Osama headed in a different direction with a small group. Muhammad was also part of that small group. Some Chechen and Saudi fighters provided them cover and they walked all night towards the eastern Afghan province Paktia.
A top Afghan security official, Lutfullah Mashal, confirmed to me later that Osama escaped to Paktia from Tora Bora in December 2001. Mashal followed him secretly. He claimed Osama entered North Waziristan, Pakistan, from Paktia, spent some time there and then moved to the mountains of the eastern Afghan province Khost.
Mashal now works with President Hamid Karzai and he is sure that the Americans missed Osama in Tora Bora because they were not ready to send their forces on the ground.
The Americans depended more on a Northern Alliance commander who betrayed them. According to highly reliable Afghan sources, this man provided safe passage to Al Qaeda in return for a lot of money. He is a member of the Afghan parliament now.
Osama remained underground in 2002. He and his colleagues were on the run. They kept changing their hideouts often. They were just saving their lives, they were not fighting.
In April 2003, Osama surfaced again in Afghanistan after the US invasion of Iraq. He called a meeting in the Pech valley of the northeastern Afghan province Kunar and delivered a hard-hitting speech in which he announced his plans to resist America in Iraq. He said, ‘Get Americans in Iraq before they get us in Afghanistan.’
He declared Saif ul Adil as in charge of organising the resistance in Iraq and also advised him to contact Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who was hiding in Iran at that time.
Osama started addressing small gatherings of his comrades in Kunar as well as in Paktia. One of his daughters-in-law died during childbirth in those days in the Kunar mountains. There was a big gathering for the funeral. Local Afghans found out about the death and started visiting the homes of some Al Qaeda fighters who had married into families in Kunar.
The news reached the Americans. They launched an operation in Kunar, but once again Osama escaped towards the south before the bombing began in the Pech valley.
In late 2004, Osama was surrounded by British troops in the southern Afghan province of Helmand. He was hiding in a mountain area with three defence lines.
Highly placed diplomatic sources revealed to me recently in Kabul that the British forces were very close to capturing Osama. He was under siege for more than 24 hours but he escaped one of the world’s most well equipped armies again.
According to details gathered from Taliban sources in Helmand, the British forces broke two Al Qaeda defence lines in an area of 5 kilometres. One-to-one fighting was about to start, but daylight ended and the darkness provided some relief to Al Qaeda.
Osama wanted to fight himself, but his colleagues stopped him. Heated words were exchanged. Osama was angry, but Abu Hamza Aljazeeri convinced him to try to escape. They placed many rockets with timers in two different directions as decoys. They decided to break the enemy circle in a third direction with a group of foot soldiers. That group provided Osama cover.
Most of the fighters died, but the escape plan succeeded. Osama slipped from British hands with Abu Hamza Al Jazeeri and some others.
My sources denied reports that Osama had ordered his guards to shoot him if he is on the verge of arrest. The sources claimed he does not believe in suicide; it is easier for him to sacrifice his life in fighting against the enemy till the last bullet and the last drop of his blood.