Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in 2001, left, and Seymour Hersh in 2004, right. Hersh has called into question the official account of the American raid that killed bin Laden
Usman Khalid, a brigadier who claimed asylum in London 35 years ago and became a British citizen, was allegedly the informant whose tip-off led to the assassination of the world’s most wanted man in 2011.
His family told of their anger that their father – who died a year ago – has been publicly identified as the source of the leak.
And they have denied that Brigadier Khalid was the man responsible.
Speculation about the identity of the unnamed informant has been rife following the publication of an article by Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning U.S. journalist, in the London Review of Books earlier this month.
Hersh claimed that, contrary to the US government’s version of events, bin Laden was being held prisoner by the Pakistani intelligence agency – the ISI – in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.
However, Hersh claimed that an unnamed senior officer in the Pakistani army had been the “walk-in” who provided details of the secret hideout in exchange for a substantial amount of a $25 million bounty.
According to Hersh’s account, the supergrass was supposed to also have been rewarded with U.S. citizenship and to be alive and well in America. In a bizarre twist, the unnamed officer has now been identified in Pakistani media – citing military sources – as Brigadier Khalid.
However, his family believe he has been wrongly implicated because of his outspoken views on Pakistani politics.
The retired brigadier claimed political asylum in Britain after resigning from a 25-year career in the army in protest at the execution in 1979 of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the former prime minister and father of Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.
Brigadier Khalid died last year of cancer at the age of 79.
His son, Abid Khalid said, “It simply doesn’t make sense. At the time that this was supposed to have happened, he was suffering from cancer and in and out of hospital.”
My father was an honourable and patriotic man. He would have been devastated to have been linked to anything which would put the lives of innocent people, especially children at risk, especially in the country he loved.
“My father hadn’t visited the USA since 1976 and had lived in the UK since 1979 so there was no question of him or his family getting American citizenship. He had no contact with the CIA and knew nothing about Osama bin Laden, other than what he read in the newspapers, just like everyone else.”
“He was politically very vocal, so he was an easy target.”
The family also denied claims that their father had played a role in persuading a Pakistan doctor – Dr Shakhil Ahmed – to set up a fake polio vaccination drive as part of a CIA ploy to surreptitiously acquire DNA evidence of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
“My father was an honourable and patriotic man,” said Abid Khalid. “He was also a caring, family man and would be horrified to be linked to the fake polio vaccination programme.”
“He would have been devastated to have been linked to anything which would put the lives of innocent people, especially children at risk, especially in the country he loved.”
Critics have accused Hersh – the investigative journalist who uncovered the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prison scandal – of allowing himself to be used to vent conspiracy theories. They have also queried the quality of his reporting, saying that has relied too much on one U.S. intelligence source, whom they say appears to have known little about the inner workings of the operation to find bin Laden.
Since the publication of the article, further allegations have emerged to support at least some of his assertions
The White House described his claims that Pakistan co-operated with the U.S. to kill the former al-Qaeda leader as “inaccurate and baseless.”
However, since the publication of the article, further allegations have emerged to support at least some of his assertions.
The BND spy service – the German equivalent of MI6 – was said to have provided a tip-off that he was hiding in Pakistan, with the knowledge of Pakistani security services.
Hersh declined to comment on the comments by Brigadier Khalid’s family. It is understood that he claims the source of the tip-off about bin Laden’s whereabouts was not the same person identified by the Pakistani newspaper, the News.
In 2013, the London Review of Books published another widely contested article by Hersh, in which he cited anonymous intelligence sources blaming the Nusra Front jihadist group rather than the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad for the August 2013 sarin gas attack in Ghouta, Damascus.