Osama bin Laden was unarmed when US special forces shot and killed him, the White House said, as it tried to establish whether Pakistan had helped the al-Qaeda leader elude a worldwide manhunt.
Pakistan faced national embarrassment, a leading Islamabad newspaper said, in how to explain that the world’s most-wanted man was able to live for years in the military garrison town of Abbottabad, just north of the capital.
Islamabad vehemently denies it gave shelter to bin Laden.
“There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone,” Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani told reporters in Paris. “[If there are] ... lapses from the Pakistan side, that means there are lapses from the whole world.”
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also defended his government yesterday, calling suggestions that Pakistan sheltered bin Laden “baseless speculation ... [that] doesn’t reflect fact.”
The revelation that bin Laden was unarmed contradicted an earlier US account that he had participated in a firefight with the helicopter-borne US commandos.
Al-Arabiya television went further, suggesting the architect of the Sept. 11 terror attacks was first taken prisoner and then shot.
“A security source in the Pakistani security quoted the daughter of Osama bin Laden [as saying] that the leader of al-Qaeda was not killed inside his house, but had been arrested and was killed later,” the Arabic TV station said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday cited the “fog of war” — a phrase suggested by a reporter — as a reason for the initial misinformation.
Bin Laden’s killing and the swift burial of his body at sea have produced some criticism in the Muslim world and accusations Washington acted outside international law.
“The Americans behaved in the same way as bin Laden: with treachery and baseness,” Husayn al-Sawaf, 25-year-old playwright said in Cairo. “They should’ve tried him in a court. As for his burial, that’s not Islamic. He should’ve been buried in soil.”
Washington will weigh sensitivities in the Muslim world when it decides whether to release photographs of bin Laden’s body.
“It’s fair to say that it’s a gruesome photograph,” Carney said. “I’ll be candid. There are sensitivities here in terms of the appropriateness of releasing photographs.”
Pakistan has welcomed bin Laden’s death, but its foreign ministry expressed deep concerns about the raid, which it called an “unauthorized unilateral action.”
The CIA said it kept Pakistan out of the loop because it feared bin Laden would be tipped off, highlighting the depth of mistrust between the two supposed allies.
US helicopters carrying the commandos used radar “blind spots” in the hilly terrain along the Afghan border to enter Pakistani airspace undetected on Monday.
The Pakistani newspaper Dawn compared the latest humiliation with the admission in 2004 that one of the country’s top scientists had sold its nuclear secrets.
“Not since Abdul Qadeer Khan confessed to transferring nuclear technology to Iran and Libya has Pakistan suffered such an embarrassment,” it said.
Carney insisted bin Laden resisted when US forces stormed his compound in the 40-minute operation. He would not say how.
“There was concern that bin Laden would oppose the capture operation and, indeed, he resisted,” Carney said. “A woman ... bin Laden’s wife, rushed the US assaulter and was shot in the leg but not killed. Bin Laden was then shot and killed. He was not armed.”