WASHINGTON — The United States is “very concerned” about the condition of a Pakistani doctor who provided information that helped them track down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told CBS News in an interview to be broadcast today.
Pakistan has charged the doctor, Shikal Afridi, with treason. He collected DNA in the town of Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was hiding, that helped verify the presence of the al-Qaida chief, Panetta told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
“I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual,” said Panetta.
“He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan. … Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism … and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part.”
Panetta, a former CIA director, led the hunt for bin Laden, who was killed on May 2 when U.S. special forces stormed his hideout in Abbottabad. Bin Laden lived for more than five years in the garrison town, which is close to the capital Islamabad.
Panetta said he still believes that someone in authority in Pakistan knew where the most-wanted terrorist in the world was hiding.
“I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what … was happening at this compound. Don’t forget, this compound had 18-foot walls. … It was the largest compound in the area. So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell’s going on there?’ ” Panetta told CBS.
But asked whether he knew for sure that Pakistan was aware of bin Laden’s presence, he said: “I don’t have any hard evidence, so I can’t say it for a fact. There’s nothing that proves the case. But as I said, my personal view is that somebody somewhere probably had that knowledge.”
Tensions increased between Washington and Islamabad after the raid, which Pakistan said was unilateral and unauthorized. The United States has questioned whether Pakistan is fully committed to the war on terrorism.