When U.S. Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last month, they also took out his trusted courier–and recovered his cell phone. U.S. officials are now indicating that the phone links bin Laden to a militant group with intimate ties to Pakistan’s intelligence and military establishments:
The discovery indicates that Bin Laden used the group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, as part of his support network inside the country, the officials and others said. But it also raised tantalizing questions about whether the group and others like it helped shelter and support Bin Laden on behalf of Pakistan’s spy agency, given that it had mentored Harakat and allowed it to operate in Pakistan for at least 20 years, the officials and analysts said.
In tracing the calls on the cellphone, American analysts have determined that Harakat commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the senior American officials said. One said they had met. The officials added that the contacts were not necessarily about Bin Laden and his protection and that there was no “smoking gun” showing that Pakistan’s spy agency had protected Bin Laden.
Relations have been on ice since the clandestine raid was conducted without tipping off Pakistan’s military or political leadership, and the more evidence that emerges tying Pakistani officials to having sheltered bin Laden, the more prickly they will get.