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In 2009, US intelligence locates Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti), a trusted courier working for Osama bin Laden, somewhere in northwest Pakistan. This is done by remote monitoring of his cell phone calls and e-mails, after his full real name was discovered in 2007 (see 2007). His brother Abrar, who is also involved with al-Qaeda, is discovered as well. However, their exact location in Pakistan is still unknown and will not be discovered until 2010 (see July 2010). (Walsh 5/2/2011; Isikoff 5/4/2011)
Assistance from Pakistani Government - The Washington Post will later report that the Pakistani government has been secretly assisting US intelligence with data collection for a number of years. The US can collect wireless phone calls on its own in Pakistan, but the Pakistani government helps the US collect landline calls and e-mails as well. In 2009, the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, allegedly notices several suspicious calls spoken in Arabic to the Middle East. The phone number is discovered to belong to Ahmed. An unnamed US official will later say: “The Pakistanis indeed provided information that was useful to the US government as it collected intelligence on the bin Laden compound. That information helped fill in some gaps.” (Ignatius 5/11/2011)
Ahmed's General Location Discovered; Exact Locale Is Still a Mystery - However, Ahmed normally drives an hour or two before inserting the battery in his cell phone, and he frequently changes the SIM cards in his phone. As a result, US intelligence concludes he is living somewhere in northwest Pakistan, but it cannot figure out exactly where. One of these calls comes from the general vicinity of Abbottabad, where Ahmed will eventually be found to be living with Osama bin Laden (see August 1, 2010). But since other calls come from other towns, intelligence analysts cannot limit their search to just Abbottabad. (Ignatius 5/11/2011; Cole 5/19/2011)
Extensive Surveillance Effort Begins - A senior Obama administration official will later say the two brothers’ “extensive operational security” keeps investigators from determining exactly where they live. “The fact that they were being so careful reinforced our belief that we were on the right track.” This official will add, “We couldn’t trail [Ahmed], so we had to set up an elaborate surveillance effort.” (Walsh 5/2/2011)
Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard makes some phone calls that help US intelligence to conclude bin Laden is living in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In July 2010, Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed (a.k.a. Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti) accepts a phone call on his cell phone from a friend who is already being monitored by US intelligence, and this leads investigators to the exact compound in Abbottabad where Ahmed and bin Laden live (see July 2010). Investigators determine there is no land line or Internet in the compound. However, there is a satellite phone that apparently is used by bin Laden’s bodyguard.
Calls to Known Associates - In July and August 2010, US intelligence tracks calls from this bodyguard to al-Qaeda associates in the towns of Charsada and Kohat in the same province. Further details are unknown, such as who is called or if the bodyguard continues to make calls after August 2010. But these calls help US analysts decide that bin Laden is probably living inside the compound.
Who Is the Bodyguard? - The name of this bodyguard will not be made public, but apparently he is Kuwaiti. When bin Laden is killed in 2011 (see May 2, 2011) there will be no bodyguards with him. However, Ahmed and his brother Abrar could be considered Kuwaiti, as they were originally Pakistani, but raised in Kuwait. (Tohid 5/2/2011) So perhaps the bodyguard is actually one of them.
In the immediate aftermath of the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan (see May 2, 2011), Pakistani police detain up to 200 people in the Abbottabad area. Police are looking for anyone who knew Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, the courier who lived in the same compound with bin Laden, or his brother Abrar, who also lived in that compound. (Note that locally they were known by the aliases Arshad Khan and Tariq Khan, respectively.) Both men died in the US raid, but police are hoping to find accomplices. One Pakistani official says 31 have been arrested, but another official says as many as 200 have been. Pakistani police have a history in situations like this of detaining many people for questioning and then releasing most of them later without charge. One man detained, known locally as Tahir Javed, is said to have been the main contractor who built bin Laden’s compound in 2005 (see January 22, 2004-2005). He is quickly released. Other people detained are a major local landowner named Shamroz and his two sons. Neighbors says they are the people who knew those living in the compound the best. (Schifren and Cole 5/6/2011) A follow-up story on June 28 will state that most of those detained have since been released, including Shamroz. It is not known if Pakistani officials still hold or suspect any neighbors at that time. (McClatchy Newspapers 6/28/2011)
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