For 6 years, Osama lived in Pak under Army nose

Washington/Islamabad: For over six years, the world`s most wanted man Osama bin Laden appeared to have been living under the very nose of the Pakistani Army in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

bin Laden was staying in a one million dollar three- storeyed mansion just 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy, about 120 km from the country`s capital Islamabad, when he was eliminated by US commandos yesterday.

Given the mansion`s "closeness to the central location of the Pakistani army", several US lawmakers described as "astounding" and "difficult to understand" Pakistan`s claim that they did not know about bin Laden`s presence in their soil.

An indication as to how long the mastermind behind the deadly 9/11 terror attack in US stayed in the mansion was given by the Seal team of the American Navy involved in the dramatic 40-minute operation.

John Brennan, President Barack Obama`s Advisor on Counter-terrorism, said the Seal team which undertook the operation believed that the 54-year-old al-Qaeda chief had lived in the compound targeted in the attack for six years.

Other top US officials said that latest intelligence reports indicated that the al Qaeda chief had been living in the Abbottabad mansion for over six years. bin Laden`s presence in Pakistan had been denied for years by the country`s top leadership.

US lawmakers pilloried Pakistan and said it will be a "real pressure" on that country to prove they did not know bin Laden`s presence deep inside their country.

They said they had strong suspicions that its powerful spy agency ISI was aware about bin Laden`s presence in the country.

"It`s very difficult for me to understand how this huge compound could be built in a city just an hour north of the capital of Pakistan, in a city that contained military installations, including the Pakistani military academy, and that it did not arouse tremendous suspicion, especially since there were no Internet or telephone connections and the waste was incinerated and there was barbed wire all around the top of the compound," Senator Susan Collins said.

Senator Joe Lieberman said there are going to be a lot of questions raised in the US Congress about what people in the Pakistani intelligence agency particularly knew or should have known about the presence of bin Laden in Pakistan itself.

"For years, you know, the Pakistani officials have said to us he`s not in Pakistan; he`s in the mountains in Waziristan between Pakistan and Afghanistan."

He said: "We have a lot of reason to believe that elements of their intelligence community continue to be very closely in touch with and perhaps supportive of terrorist groups that are fighting us and the Afghans in Afghanistan."

In Lieberman`s view, it will be a "real pressure" on Pakistan to prove they did not know bin Laden`s presence.

US` former national security advisor Gen James Jones claimed Pakistani intelligence and military were "certainly probably" aware about the hiding place of bin Laden in Abbottabad.

"My personal view is that they certainly probably were aware of it. For whatever reasons, they chose not disclose it until perhaps recently. I don`t know…But it does raise a lot of questions, no doubt about that," Jones told the MSNBC.

Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the army and the intelligence of Pakistan have plenty of questions that they should be answering, and hopefully they are being asked by the Pakistani government.

"I think that the Pakistani army and intelligence have a lot of questions to answer, given the location, the length of time and the apparent fact that this facility was actually built for bin Laden, and its closeness to the central location of the Pakistani army," Levin said.

Senator Frank Lautenberg said, "The ability of Osama bin Laden to live in a compound so close to Pakistan`s capital is astounding ? and we need to understand who knew his location, when they knew it, and whether Pakistani officials were helping to protect him."