Bin Laden night: Pakistan tells its story
Islamabad - Pakistan on Thursday outlined its version of events the night US Navy SEALs flew in, tracked down Osama bin Laden and shot dead the world's most-wanted man in a suburban home not far from the capital.
In the most detailed public discussion of the operation yet by the Pakistani government, the top official at the foreign ministry said American helicopters had flown at a low altitude to escape Pakistani radars.
Salman Bashir told reporters that it was only when one of them crashed near bin Laden's compound in the town of Abbottabad, that suspicions were roused.
After five to 10 minutes, Pakistan apparently confirmed the helicopter was foreign, not least because Pakistani helicopters fly only in daylight.
The air force then scrambled two aircraft. Once they were airborne, it took 15 minutes for them to reach the site, which is just a mile from Pakistan's equivalent of West Point, by which time the Americans were long gone.
"When our concerned personnel entered the compound they were able to see what had happened... that is where we found out that indeed from the family of Osama bin Laden that it was he who had been taken," Bashir said.
A local intelligence official told AFP on Wednesday that bin Laden's death was first confirmed to the Pakistanis by a young daughter of the al-Qaeda kingpin, who said she had seen him shot dead and his body taken away.
Four bodies were retrieved from the covert attack, including one of bin Laden's sons, said the official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity.
Up to three women and nine children, including a young Yemeni wife of bin Laden who was shot in the leg and the daughter, aged 12 to 13.
Tellingly, Bashir also confirmed that Pakistan's army chief of staff, Ashfaq Kayani, was the first to be briefed about the operation.
America's top military officer Mike Mullen telephoned him at about 03:00 (22:00 GMT Sunday), before US President Barack Obama telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari.
On Monday, Obama's counter-terrorism co-ordinator, John Brennan, told reporters that Pakistanis had scrambled assets in response to an "incident that they knew was taking place in Abbottabad".