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Pakistan sacks doctor who helped track down bin Laden

PublishDate:2012-06-11 Source: Author:

Pakistan sacked on Thursday a government surgeon recruited by the CIA to help find Osama bin Laden, officials said, amid calls for him to face treason charges.

Doctor Shakeel Afridi, who is in custody, was fired on disciplinary grounds by the government in northwest province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where bin Laden was killed during a clandestine US raid last May that humiliated Pakistan.

"The government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued a notification of dismissal of Dr Shakeel Afridi," provincial health secretary Ashfaq Khan told AFP.

Seventeen other medics who worked on the same fake vaccination programme set up by the CIA in a bid to confirm the Al-Qaeda chief was living in the city of Abbottabad have already been sacked from their government posts, he added.

Fifteen women health workers were dismissed last August, and a woman doctor and an assistant coordinator were sacked on March 17, Khan told AFP.

Afridi, who worked for years as a government surgeon in the lawless tribal district of Khyber, is in police custody and a panel investigating the bin Laden raid has recommended that he be put on trial for treason.

Pakistani officials believe Afridi may have known about bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad and shared the information with US intelligence agents.

In January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta confirmed Afridi had worked for US intelligence by collecting DNA to verify the 9/11 mastermind's presence, and expressed concern about Pakistan's treatment of him.

"He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan," Panetta told CBS television's "60 Minutes".

"For them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part."

Panetta said he believed someone in authority in Pakistan knew where bin Laden was hiding and as a result Islamabad was not warned about the raid.

Pakistan pleaded ignorance of bin Laden's whereabouts and said the raid was a violation of its sovereignty. The operation severely damaged relations with the United States, which have struggled to recover.

British newspaper The Guardian reported last July that Afridi set up a fake vaccination programme in the hope of obtaining DNA samples from the house where the CIA suspected bin Laden was living.

The United States was not 100 percent sure that the Al-Qaeda chief was living in the Abbottabad house when President Barack Obama gave the approval for Navy SEALs to raid the compound on May 2.

The Guardian said the doctor had been recruited by the CIA for an elaborate scheme to vaccinate residents for hepatitis B, a ploy to get a DNA sample from those living in the house to see if they were bin Laden family members.

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