The United States said Monday that its operation which ended in the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was conducted without the cooperation of Pakistani forces and that Islamabad was kept in the dark about the raid.
Bin Laden was fatally wounded during the operation involving a small team of US operatives during a raid on a compound in the city of Abottabad, some 50 kilometers north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
US counter-terrorism chief John Brennan said during a televised press conference that Pakistan was only informed of the raid once US forces had made their way out of the country via helicopter.
Brennan said it was "inconceivable" that bin Laden was without a support system inside Pakistan, but did not speculate on whether he had received any official aid.
"We will pursue all leads to find out exactly what type of support system and benefactors that bin Laden would have had," he said. "It is inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country to allow him to stay there for an extended period of time.
"I won't speculate on what type of support he would have had on an official basis, and we are talking to the Pakistanis right now," he added.
US authorities announced on Tuesday that Washington was closing its embassy in Islamabad along with consulates in three other cities, amid fears of reprisal attacks following bin Laden's death.
Brennan reiterated that the US-Pakistan relationship remained vital to defeating al Qaeda, but acknowledged "differences of opinion" between the governments of the two countries.
He went on to confirm that contingencies had existed for taking bin Laden alive in the special forces raid, and added that US authorities were poring over documents gathered at the compound during the operation.
He added that bin Laden had appeared to be hiding behind a woman he understood to be his wife, who was "positioned in a way that indicated she was be used as a shield."
Brennan also said the White House was yet to make a decision on whether to release photographic proof that bin Laden was dead. The al Qaeda leader was buried at sea by the US navy shortly after his death.
The president of Pakistan acknowledged on Tuesday that his security forces were left out of the operation to kill bin Laden, but he did little to dispel questions over how bin Laden could have lived undetected near Islamabad for so long.
"He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone," President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in the Washington Post.
Author: Darren Mara (AFP, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner