The doctor, a 'British' spy and the hunt for Osama


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The Independent Online

A green-eyed female spy with blonde hair and a British accent was reportedly one of the handlers of the Pakistani doctor who tried to help the CIA trace Osama Bin Laden.

She and other operatives would pick up the doctor at a petrol station in Islamabad, make him lie in the back seat of the vehicle beneath a blanket and then take him for debriefing.

The details emerged this week as prosecutors in Pakistan filed documents with a tribal court where the jailed doctor, Shakil Afridi, is seeking to overturn a 33-year prison sentence he was given after being accused of being a traitor.

"He met 25 times with foreign secret agents, received instructions and provided sensitive information to them," says an investigative report filed by prosecutors, according to the Washington Post. "The accused was aware that he was working against Pakistan."

The 48-year-old physician was convicted and sentenced in May after being accused of helping the CIA to try and locate the al-Qa'ida leader, who was killed in a raid by US special forces at a compound in the town of Abbottabad in 2011. In order to try and obtain a DNA sample from individuals at the compound that could have proved conclusively that Bin Laden was there, the doctor was asked to set up a fake vaccination programme.

As it was, the ruse was not successful, but the doctor was still paid $61,000 for trying, say prosecutors. He was arrested three weeks after the raid on Bin Laden's house, having apparently turned down an offer of relocation to the United States.

The US has admitted that Mr Afridi was helping them and has urged the Pakistani authorities to release him, saying that he has done nothing against his country and that he was trying to help kill a high-value militant. After he was jailed, American politicians threatened to withhold millions of dollars in aid.

The report claims that several days after the raid by US special forces, Mr Afridi received a call from "Sue". He travelled to Islamabad, where she told him his life was at risk and that he should try and escape to Afghanistan. She is said to have given him two numbers to call once he reached Kabul and that he could be picked up. The prosecutors claim Mr Afridi told them he declined to leave, because "I did not feel I had any involvement in the killing of Osama bin Laden".

The prosecutors report claim that Mr Afridi's handlers used several locations in Islamabad as pick-up points, including the Saeed Book Bank, a popular bookstore. There were several handlers, including at least two women.

Mr Afridi is appealing against his conviction under a tribal system in which he counsel has little opportunity to challenge the allegations of prosecutions. The doctor's lawyer could not be reached for comment last night.

Mr Afridi's family insists he has done nothing wrong. His brother, Jamil Afridi, previously told The Independent: "I have categorically said he is not guilty. Moreover, Dr Afridi had a US visa and had visited USA also. If he were guilty he could have left Pakistan and stayed in the US, which he did not do."