YORK A cellphone of Osama bin Ladens trusted courier found in the unilateral US raid in Abbottabad last month that killed the Al-Qaeda leader contained contacts to a militant group, The New York Times reported Friday.
Citing unnamed senior US officials briefed on the findings, the newspapers report said the discovery indicated that bin Laden used the group, Harkatul Mujahideen, as part of his support network inside Pakistan.
The cellphone belonged to bin Ladens courier, who was killed along with the Al-Qaeda leader in the May 2 raid by US special forces on bin Ladens compound, the Times said.
A CIA spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the report. In tracing calls on the cellphone, US analysts determined that Harkat commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the Times reported, citing the senior American officials.
The officials added the contacts were not necessarily about bin Laden and his protection and that there was no 'smoking gun showing that Pakistans spy agency had protected bin Laden, the newspaper said.
The newspaper quoted one of the officials as saying the cellphone analysis was a 'serious lead in the hunt for answers about how bin Laden managed to evade notice by Pakistans spy agency or military for years in the town. Its a serious lead, one American official, who has been briefed in broad terms on the cellphone analysis, was quoted as saying. Its an avenue were investigating.
The newspaper quoted analysts familiar with Harkat as saying it had deep roots in the area around Abbottabad. Its leaders have strong ties with both Al-Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence, the Times said.
Agencies add: The Pakistan Army condemned a report in the New York Times that a cellphone found in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden contained contacts to a militant group with ties to Pakistans intelligence agency.
Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said in a statement sent by text message that the military 'rejects the insinuations made in the NYT story. It is part of a well-orchestrated smear campaign against our security organisations, he said.
Pakistan, its security forces have suffered the most at the hands of Al-Qaeda and have delivered the most against Al-Qaeda; our actions on the ground speak louder than the words of the Times, Abbas said.
Meanwhile, a member of a militant group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen denied on Friday the New York Times report stating a cellphone found during the raid on Osama bin Ladens compound contained information that linked the group to bin Laden.
The member of Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen said he was not aware of support his group gave bin Laden during the years the Al-Qaeda chief was hiding in Abbottabad. The statement by the man, who did not want his name used because no one in his group was authorised to speak to the media, differs from a recent New York Times report.