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Pakistan may repatriate bin Laden's wives

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Fri October 7, 2011
After the May 2 raid at the compound in Abbottabad pictured above, bin Laden's family were taken into Pakistani custody.
After the May 2 raid at the compound in Abbottabad pictured above, bin Laden's family were taken into Pakistani custody.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pakistan is talking to Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the home countries of Osama bin Laden's wives
  • A government panel recommended travel restrictions be lifted
  • The same panel recommended treason charges for a doctor who helped the CIA
  • The al Qaeda leader was killed May 2 in a U.S. raid on his compound

(CNN) -- Pakistan has contacted the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to arrange repatriation of Osama bin Laden's three wives, Pakistani security officials told CNN Friday.

Word of those talks came a day after a Pakistani government commission recommended travel restrictions be lifted for bin Laden's family.

It's not clear when the talks began, but the security officials said Pakistan has made a decision to send the wives back to their home countries. The officials asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

All three wives and eight of bin Laden's children were taken into Pakistani custody after the May 2 raid by U.S. commandos that killed the al Qaeda leader.

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

On Thursday, the same Pakistani commission recommended treason charges against a doctor suspected of helping the CIA target bin Laden.

"A case of conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason is made" against Dr. Shakeel Afridi, the Ministry of Information said.

The recommendation is nonbinding. It is unclear whether the government will act on it.

Afridi is accused of helping the CIA use a vaccination campaign to try to collect DNA samples from people who lived in bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad.

The United States has repeatedly asked for the release of the Pakistani doctor, a U.S. official said, declining to comment further on the possible treason charges.

Pakistani security forces detained the doctor in July, a senior Pakistani security official said at the time. He remains in custody. It is unclear whether an attorney represents him.

The Guardian newspaper reported this year that in the course of gathering intelligence for the raid, the CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor to run a vaccination program in the area. The goal was to try to obtain DNA evidence from bin Laden family members, the British newspaper said, citing unnamed Pakistani and U.S. officials.

Any DNA obtained from the people in the compound could have been compared with a sample from bin Laden's sister, who died in Boston in 2010, as evidence the family was in the compound, the newspaper said.

Neighborhood residents told CNN that two women who appeared to be nurses visited homes and offered free vaccinations.

"This was one very small piece of a very large intelligence effort to determine that bin Laden was located at the compound," a senior U.S. official told CNN over the summer.

The vaccination campaign occurred shortly before U.S. forces raided the compound, the senior U.S. official said.

"People need to put this into some perspective," the official added. "The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world's top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn't shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn't used all the tools at its disposal to find bin Laden."

The Pakistan commission's report also said the house where bin Laden lived would be turned over to the city's civilian administration, and that authorities had finished questioning members of bin Laden's family.

That means the commission's restraining order that required the family members to remain in Pakistan during its inquiry can be lifted, Thursday's statement said. The order barred Pakistani authorities from handing over bin Laden's family members to officials in other countries.

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.

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