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After finding the Pakistani suburb where they thought Bin Laden was hiding, the CIA wanted to be sure it was him before sending in the Navy SEALs. So they recruited a local doctor to start a fake vaccination program in an attempt to obtain the DNA of Bin Laden’s family members and thereby confirm Osama’s identity.

The Agency hoped to use the vaccines to get DNA from Bin Laden’s children in the compound and compare it to DNA taken from Bin Laden’s sister, who died last year in Boston. An investigation by the British newspaper The Guardian revealed the cloak-and-dagger details of the plot:

“The whole thing was totally irregular,” said one Pakistani official. “Bilal Town is a well-to-do area. Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines? And what is the official surgeon of Khyber doing working in Abbottabad?”

A nurse known as Bakhto, whose full name is Mukhtar Bibi, managed to gain entry to the Bin Laden compound to administer the vaccines. According to several sources, the doctor, who waited outside, told her to take in a handbag that was fitted with an electronic device. It is not clear what the device was, or whether she left it behind. It is also not known whether the CIA managed to obtain any Bin Laden DNA, although one source suggested the operation did not succeed.

Mukhtar Bibi, who was unaware of the real purpose of the vaccination campaign, would not comment on the programme.

Pakistani intelligence became aware of the doctor’s activities during the investigation into the US raid in which Bin Laden was killed on the top floor of the Abbottabad house. Islamabad refused to comment officially on Afridi’s arrest, but one senior official said: “Wouldn’t any country detain people for working for a foreign spy service?”

The doctor, Shakil Afridi, is currently being held by the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence service, and it is believed the U.S. is trying to get him released. [The Guardian]

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