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Source: U.S. needs permission to interview bin Laden wives

By the CNN Wire Staff
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U.S. to have access to bin Laden's wives
  • NEW: U.S. official identifies the widows of Osama bin Laden
  • Pakistan will let U.S. interview bin Laden wives only with OK from countries of origin
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Abbottabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan will allow the United States to question or take into custody the apparent wives of Osama bin Laden only if their "country of origin has been asked for permission," a senior Pakistani intelligence source told CNN on Monday.

Pakistani officials have said bin Laden's family members will be repatriated to their home countries after initial interrogations. One of bin Laden's wives is from Yemen, the official said, while a well-placed U.S. official who would not speak on the record said the other two are from Saudi Arabia.

All three were taken into Pakistani custody after the May 2 raid by U.S. commandos that killed bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist movement. The raid succeeded in scratching the man behind the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington off the U.S. most-wanted list, but it has strained ties with a key American ally in the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The 29-year-old Yemeni wife, Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, was wounded during the raid. The U.S. official identified the other two women as Khairiah Sabar, also known as "Umm Hamza," and Siham Sabar, or "Umm Khalid."

The official identified the other men killed in the raid as bin Laden's son Khalid; two couriers, known around the town of Abbottabad by the aliases Arshad Khan and Tariq Khan. The official would not provide their real names.

The wife of one of the couriers also died, the official said.

In Pakistan's parliament Monday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani rejected allegations that his government had failed to adequately pursue the world's most-wanted terrorist. While calling bin Laden's death "justice done," Gilani repeatedly assailed U.S. violation of Pakistani "sovereignty" in conducting the operation without Pakistan's knowledge or involvement.

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"Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd," Gilani said. "We emphatically reject such accusations. Speculative narratives in the public domain are meant to create despondency. We will not allow our detractors to succeed in offloading their own shortcomings and errors of omission and commission in a blame game that stigmatizes Pakistan."

Bin Laden was found in a compound in Abbottabad, a city with a heavy military presence about 50 km (31 miles) from Islamabad. That has led several U.S. officials to question whether some within the Pakistani government or military helped shield bin Laden or failed to look for him.

Gilani said Pakistan "attaches high importance" to its relations with the United States. But in a fiery speech frequently interrupted by applause from some lawmakers, he added, "Unilateralism runs the inherent risk of serious consequences."

The prime minister insisted that Pakistan's response to the sudden arrival of U.S. forces deep within its territory in the nighttime operation deserves praise.

"The air force was ordered to scramble," he said. "Ground units arrived at the scene quickly. Our response demonstrates that our armed forces reacted, as was expected of them." Still, he added, "there is no denying the U.S. technological ability to evade our radars."

And in an apparent reference to longtime rival India, Gilani said, "No one should underestimate the resolve and capability of our nation and armed forces to defend our sacred homeland."

Gilani spoke as Pakistani news reports raised the possibility that a top CIA officer's identity had been disclosed. Pakistani news outlets Monday named a man they identified as the CIA station chief there, but a senior Pakistani intelligence official said the name was inaccurate and he did not know where it came from.

"If we were going to release the name, we would release the right one," the official said.

A senior U.S. official with knowledge of the matter said that if the report were true, identifying a CIA officer "crosses a red line in intelligence protocol."

The CIA would not comment on the issue. But a U.S. official said there is "no current plan to bring home the current chief of station" in Pakistan.

"The current CIA station chief is a true pro, someone who knows how to work well with foreign partners and is looking to strengthen cooperation with Pakistani intelligence," the official said.

Pakistani armed forces chiefs issued a statement last week admitting "shortcomings in developing intelligence" on the terrorist leader's presence in the country. Dozens of people in Abbottabad have been arrested because of their suspected connections to the compound where bin Laden was shot and killed, a Pakistani intelligence official said last week, and investigators want to know whether any of the people are al Qaeda members or sympathizers.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he thinks bin Laden likely had a group of supporters within Pakistan helping to keep the al Qaeda leader secure for years, despite the U.S.-led international manhunt that extended for nearly a decade with Islamabad's ostensible support.

In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday night, Obama said, "We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was."

The president said U.S. officials "don't know whether there might have been some people inside of government (or) people outside of government, and that's something that we have to investigate."

"More importantly," he added, "the Pakistani government has to investigate."

In his CBS interview, Obama also said sending U.S. troops on a dangerous mission to get bin Laden was worth the risks, even though it was not certain bin Laden was in the compound.

"Obviously, we're going into the sovereign territory of another country and landing helicopters and conducting a military operation," he said. "And so, if it turns out that it's a wealthy, you know, prince from Dubai who's in this compound and, you know, we've sent special forces in, we've got problems."

Obama's national security adviser, Tom Donilon, said he has not seen any information to indicate Pakistani officials knew bin Laden was living in Abbottabad. But if evidence is discovered that is "highly disturbing, we'll certainly press that," he said.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Charley Keyes, Samson Desta, Gloria Borger and Pam Benson contributed to this report.

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