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Seized bin Laden cellphone provides possible link to Pakistani spy agency

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• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

A new report heightens suspicion that Osama bin Laden may have been protected on behalf of, or at least with the knowledge of, Pakistan's intelligence agency.

The cellphone of bin Laden's courier, seized in the US raid on his Abbottabad compound last month, contained contacts for commanders in a militant group with close ties to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), The New York Times reported today.

By tracing calls made with the courier's phone, American analysts deduced that commanders from the Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen militant group were in contact with Pakistani intelligence, US officials told the Times – though how they deduced that is unclear.

Harakat, which is particularly entrenched around Abbottabad, was set up with the ISI's blessing at least 20 years ago and has since been mentored by the spy agency. The implication is that if a group so close to the ISI was in touch with bin Laden's network, it is less likely that the spy agency could have been unaware of the terrorist leader's activities in Pakistan.

The US officials were quick to say, however, that there is no proof that the communication was about bin Laden, making it possible that the ISI was unaware of the terrorist leader's presence – although two former militant leaders interviewed by the Times say they are convinced the ISI was protecting bin Laden.

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