Pakistan bans bin Laden home visits ahead of 9/11
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan is preventing foreign journalists and other visitors from getting close to the house of slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Danish Ambassador to Pakistan and his wife, and two French journalists, were among several people detained this week in Abbottabad — the Pakistani garrison town that was bin Laden's last hideout.
They were held briefly before being allowed to return to the capital, Islamabad, police in the northern town said Friday.
Ambassador Uffe Wolffhechel said he asked security officers at a checkpoint on the road to the house whether he and his wife could get in viewing range of it and "they said 'we are sorry, no,' and we shook hands and said 'have a nice day'."
He said they were then held for around two hours while officers checked their papers.
The U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in early May triggered embarrassing questions over how the CIA was able to track him down without the knowledge of Pakistan's powerful army and spy agencies. A backlash ensued, with authorities placing foreigners in Pakistan under greater scrutiny.
However, there have been no formal instructions to media organizations prohibiting their travel to Abbottabad.
Abbottabad police officer Karim Khan said the authorities were preventing journalists and foreigners from visiting the compound because it is regarded as evidence in investigations into how bin Laden lived there and how the CIA found him.
An editorial in the Dawn newspaper on Friday criticized the ban on foreigners visiting.
"Let's face it: the Bin Laden compound, as the site where the world's most wanted terrorist was found, killed and his body taken away in a raid of high drama, will continue to attract visitors," it said.
"The arbitrary restrictions imposed on visiting or filming in Abbottabad are thus untenable, and must be lifted to show the world that there is nothing there that Pakistan wants to hide."
In the days after the raid, hundreds of journalists traveled to the army town and were permitted — initially at least — to get as far as the door of the large, high-walled compound where bin Laden and his wives and children had been living for several years.