Pakistan army rejects report on bin Laden's cellphone

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 24, 2011 12:44 PM
Pakistan army rejects report on bin Laden's cellphone

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The Pakistan army condemned Friday a report in the New York Times that a cellphone found in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden contained contacts to a militant group with ties to Pakistan's intelligence agency.

The newspaper, citing senior U.S. officials briefed on the findings, reported Thursday that the discovery indicated that bin Laden used the group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, as part of his support network inside Pakistan.

The cell phone belonged to bin Laden's courier, who was killed along with the al Qaeda leader in the May 2 raid by U.S. special forces on bin Laden's compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad, the Times said.

Pakistan army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said in a statement sent by text message that the military "rejects the insinuations made in the NYT story."

"It is part of a well orchestrated smear campaign against our security organizations," he said.

The army has been angered by media reports that elements in the Pakistani security establishment may have helped bin Laden hide in Pakistan.

"Pakistan, its security forces have suffered the most at the hands of al Qaeda and have delivered the most against al Qaeda; our actions on the ground speak louder than the words of the Times," Abbas said.

In tracing calls on the cell phone, U.S. analysts determined that Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the Times reported, citing the senior American officials.

The officials added the contacts were not necessarily about bin Laden and his protection and that there was no "smoking gun" showing that Pakistan's spy agency had protected bin Laden.

(Reporting by Kamran Haider, writing by Myra MacDonald; editing by Elizabeth Piper)