Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pakistan deports 14 members of bin Laden's family to Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities deported Osama bin Laden's three widows and his children to Saudi Arabia early today, less than a week before the first anniversary of the American raid that killed the al-Qaida leader.

The family's departure closed another chapter in an affair that cemented Pakistan's reputation as a hub of Islamist extremism and cast doubt on its trustworthiness as a Western ally.

Once outside Pakistan, the wives may be willing to share any information they have about how bin Laden managed to evade capture in the country for nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States.

The U.S. commandos took bin Laden's body, later buried at sea, but left his family behind. His wives and children were detained by Pakistani authorities immediately after the raid on May 2, 2011.

Two of the widows are from Saudi Arabia, and the third is from Yemen.

They were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agents and eventually charged last month with illegally entering and living in the country. The three wives and two adult daughters were convicted and sentenced to 45 days in prison. Their prison term, spent at a well-guarded house in central Islamabad, ended this month.

After midnight Thursday, a van took the women and children to the airport. Officials covered the vehicle with sheets to prevent photographers from taking their pictures.

A statement from the Interior Ministry said 14 members of the bin Laden family had been deported to the "country of their choice, Saudi Arabia."

Few details have been released about the family, but officials have said bin Laden had at least eight children and some grandchildren living with him in the house when it was raided.

The Pakistani government has denied knowing the terrorist leader's whereabouts. U.S. officials say they have no evidence senior Pakistani officials knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad, but questions remain. A Pakistani government commission formed to investigate how bin Laden lived in the country has yet to publish its report.

Soon after the raid, American investigators were given access to the wives in Pakistani custody, but one Pakistani intelligence officer has said the women refused to answer questions.

The Yemeni wife, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, told Pakistani police that the al-Qaida chief lived in five houses while on the run in Pakistan for nine years and fathered four children, two of whom were born in Pakistani government hospitals.

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