A senior NATO official made headlines last week when he said that members of Pakistani intelligence were helping hide Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in northwestern Pakistan. It seems that everyone is focused on hunting for Bin Laden in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas, but much more precise and multi-sourced intelligence, including eyewitness testimony, places the terrorist masterminds in Iran. And according to a documentary, the government stopped a plot to nab him there.
In the film Feathered Cocaine about the falcon trade in the Middle East and Asia, the leader of the Union for the Conservation of Raptors, Alan Parrot interviews a falcon smuggler who agreed to anonymously tell his story after one of Parrot’s men saved his life. He claims to have met Bin Laden six times in Iran between November 2004 and October 2007 as Bin Laden is known to be a fan of falconry. The first meeting was near Baluchistan and later meetings were at a safehouse north of Tehran and in Mashhad.
The smuggler provided Parrot with the frequencies of the radios that Bin Laden attached to the back of the falcons so he could track them down if necessary. These frequencies could allow the world’s most wanted man’s location to be determined within one square mile. In late 2006, Parrot learned from the smuggler that Bin Laden was moving from his safe haven in Tehran to an area in Zahedan closed off for him to go hunting with his falcons. Zahedan has been identified as grounds where Al-Qaeda networks operate from.
Journalist Ken Timmerman interviewed a U.S. intelligence official who confirmed that an intelligence report had been distributed at this time based on electronic intercepts that an individual of special importance was moving from Tehran to Zahedan and that hundreds of thousands of acres had been closed off for him. Whoever the visitor to Zahedan was, he was so important that powerful Arabs who regularly went to the area to go hunting were denied entry while he was there.
Parrot and his colleagues passed this information to the intelligence community with no response. He began assembling a team of former special operations personnel to act on the intelligence and use the radio frequencies to capture Bin Laden, but FBI agents said those involved would be arrested for violating the Neutrality Act. Attorney John Loftus was used by the team to contact the intelligence community, communication that included a May 2007 letter to CIA Director Michael Hayden and an offer to provide the government with footage from an unmanned aerial vehicle they were going to use to confirm the information. Loftus was firmly told to drop the plans.
Parrot says that when Bin Laden travels, the Iranian regime places his family on house arrest to guarantee that he comes back. Bin Laden and his family are protected but are also imprisoned and controlled to a degree because of that protection. This may sound fanciful, but two of Bin Laden’s sons have confirmed this element of the story.
Omar Bin Laden has said that up to 40 members of the Bin Laden family are living under house arrest in Tehran and are constantly monitored by the Revolutionary Guards. He said the compound where they live includes a tennis court, swimming pool, computers, videogames, and they are otherwise treated well, such as being allowed to go horseback riding along the coast—a key detail that corroborates the treatment Parrot says Osama Bin Laden is receiving. Notably, one of Bin Laden’s daughters escaped the compound and left the country after going to the Saudi embassy and another son left in December 2009. Khalid Bin Laden, another son, has also said that about 30 of his family members are in Iran and have actually been abused.
Saad Bin Laden, Osama’s oldest son and key member of Al-Qaeda, left in September 2008 (although he may have returned) and more recently, the former chief spokesman of Al-Qaeda, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, also left Iran. The Treasury Department has blacklisted Al-Qaeda members in Iran that it says have arranged for the Iranian safe harbor of family members of high-level Al-Qaeda operatives including those of Bin Laden and Zawahiri.
A spokesman for the Green Movement in Iran named Mohsen Makhmalbaf has also confirmed that Bin Laden is in Iran, saying “there is absolutely no doubt about this.” He said that he is living in a safehouse near Karaj close to Tehran. He also says that Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the presidential candidate who ran against Ahmadinejad and is now a top opposition leader, told him that he went on a tour with Iranian government officials in 2006 to an Al-Qaeda and Taliban camp near Karaj where they were on a hunger strike to protest the food they were given. “They were half prisoners, half guests,” Makhmalbaf said, which is the same description given by Bin Laden’s sons and Parrot.
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