Investigators track bin Laden’s couriers: WSJ

Pakistan: Osama bin Laden’s main links to the outside world, two men who were killed with him on May 2, were Kuwait-born brothers whose family hails from this remote village in northwest Pakistan, according to a senior Pakistani security official.Pakistani officials told The Wall Street Journal they have identified the brothers as Abrar and Ibrahim Said Ahmad. Though the two were raised in Kuwait, they maintained some connections to this small, scenic village, officials said.The identification of the two men, who lived with their families in bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, has opened new channels of inquiry for Pakistani investigators probing how the al Qaeda chief maintained contact with his terrorist network while living cloistered for years in a Pakistani military town.Pakistani intelligence agents last week detained more than six people from Martung, including three relatives of the Ahmads—an uncle and two brothers of Ibrahim’s wife. Investigators haven’t established if they have any connection to al Qaeda.

Even as investigators pursue connections to the Ahmad family, Pakistani officials say the probe into who sheltered bin Laden has widened to bring under scrutiny some former members of Pakistan’s chief spy agency and some Pakistani militant groups close to al Qaeda.But bin Laden’s main link to the outside world, while he lived in a compound that U.S. officials say had no Internet and no telephone connections, was through the Ahmad brothers.The men helped bin Laden release videos and communicate with other al Qaeda leaders, the senior Pakistani security official said. One of the two men was the courier—known by the nom de guerre Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, and by another alias in Abbottabad—whose trail first led the Central Intelligence Agency to bin Laden’s home, U.S. officials said.Pakistani officials haven’t determined which of the brothers was the courier. The courier, in 2004, acquired the land where the compound was built.The brothers were seen coming and going in cars, neighbors said; bin Laden appears to have never left the compound. The Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden also took the life of the wife of the courier’s brother, according to a U.S. official. A son of bin Laden also died.

Pakistani investigators have pieced together a sketch of the brothers’ background from evidence at the bin Laden house and interviews with survivors of the raid.The Ahmads’ family village, a three-hour drive from Abbottabad, is a quiet collection of mud houses scattered along a hillside, surrounded by terraced fields. Its district, Shangla, was a stronghold of Pakistan Taliban insurgents until the extremists were driven out by a military offensive in 2009.Most of the village’s young men have moved away to cities in search of work, residents say.The Ahmads’ father was a strictly religious Muslim who migrated from Martung to Kuwait around 50 years ago, according to village residents familiar with the family.In Kuwait, he took the name Ahmad Said, and fathered eight sons. He died in Kuwait within the past decade, after a last visit to his village, residents said. Three of his brothers stayed in Martung. One is an active member of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s most influential mainstream Islamic political party. He couldn’t be reached to comment.

How Abrar and Ibrahim joined bin Laden is unclear. Two of their brothers were killed fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan, according to villagers.Ibrahim’s wife, Mariyam, was the daughter of one of his father’s cousins, a man called Naeemuddin, who still lives in Martung, according to village residents. Mr. Naeemuddin, a subsistence farmer, couldn’t be reached to comment.Two of Mr. Naeemuddin’s sons worked as dishwashers in a restaurant in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore before being detained by Pakistani security agents for questioning, according to a senior security official.People in Martung say they never saw Ibrahim or Abrar in the village. However, residents recalled the mysterious way Mariyam would return to see her family. “The family would just receive a call that she should be picked up from some place,” said a resident who knows the family. “After staying for few days she would be dropped at some hotel in Peshawar,” the main city in northwestern Pakistan.Mariyam last visited about four days before the Abbottabad raid, the resident said. It is unclear whether Mariyam was the woman killed in the U.S. raid. – Onlinenews