Islamabad: Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan's detention for years and was killed after the country struck a deal with the US, a top American journalist has claimed citing new evidence and disputed Islamabad's assertion that it was not aware of the raid that killed the al-Qaeda leader.
Legendary US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh repeated his claim that Pakistan was aware of the Navy Seals' raid that killed bin Laden in 2011 in his his compound in Abbottabad town near Pakistan army's elite training school.
Bin Laden was the founder of al-Qaeda, the group that claimed responsibility for the 11 September attacks on the United States.
In an interview to Dawn, Hersh said that since last year he had seen new evidence that cemented his belief that the official US account on bin Laden's killing was deceptive.
He also reiterated his claim that Pakistan had detained bin Laden in 2006 and kept him prisoner with the backing of Saudi Arabia.
The US and Pakistan then struck a deal that the US would raid his compound but make it look as if Pakistan was unaware.
"Pakistan is in constant alert because of India. Their radars are watching, their F-16s are up all the time," said Hersh while arguing that it was not possible for US helicopters to enter Abbottabad without alerting the Pakistanis.
When asked if he still believes Pakistan helped the United States get bin Laden, he said: "More than ever".
When Hersh first made this claim in an article published last year, it shook Washington and forced the White House to reject the story as false.
Major US media outlets also rejected his claim as incorrect.
But Hersh repeated the claim in his new book, 'The Killing of Osama bin Laden' published this week, insisting that he was right.
He said the then army and ISI chiefs had made this deal with the Americans, which upset other Pakistani generals.
"The then head of Pakistan's Air Defence Command was very, very upset. He was ready to go public," said Hersh, claiming that the disgruntled general was made PIA chairman after his retirement to keep him silent.
In an interview to Democracy Now, a network of more than 1,400 radio and television outlets, Hersh said the US and Pakistan had jointly created the "myth" "we discovered" where he was living.
"What I know is...that in August of 2010, a Pakistani a colonel...came into our embassy, went to the then CIA Station Chief Jonathan Bank, and said: 'We’ve had bin Laden for four years'."
Hersh told Dawn that the colonel was later moved to the US and was now living somewhere near Washington.
"The Pakistani intelligence picked him (bin Laden) in the Hindu Kush area, built the compound in Abbottabad and put him there," he said.
"Pakistani officials did so because the Saudis asked them to. The Saudis did not want Americans to interrogate him."
According to Hersh, when the CIA asked Pakistani officials to make the 2 May, 2011, operation in Abbottabad a surprise raid, they agreed "because they had kept OBL in custody without telling us".
The Americans were already very upset and the Pakistanis did not want to make it worse, he added.