ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan could take several more days to deport the widows and children of Osama bin Laden to Saudi Arabia, and perhaps Yemen, the former al Qaeda leader’s brother-in-law said on Thursday.
The three women and two children were detained by Pakistani security forces after a secret U.S. special forces raid killed bin Laden in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in May last year.
This month, a Pakistani court sentenced the women to 45 days in prison for illegally staying in the country. It ordered their deportation after the prison term which began on March 3 when they were formally arrested.
Once outside Pakistan, bin Laden’s relatives could reveal details about how the world’s most wanted man was able to hide in U.S. ally Pakistan for years, possibly assisted by elements of the country’s powerful military and spy agency.
Yemen-born Amal Al-Sadeh, the youngest widow, and her four children were among the 16 people detained by Pakistani authorities after the U.S. raid that killed bin laden. Two other wives from Saudi Arabia were also detained.
Speculation had been swirling the relatives would be deported on Wednesday but Zakariya al-Sadeh, Amal’s brother, said paperwork between Pakistani authorities and the Saudi and Yemeni embassies needed processing.
“We need a few more days,” he told Reuters. “This will require time.”
Any revelations about ties to bin Laden could embarrass Pakistan and infuriate the United States, which staged a decade-long hunt for bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Pakistani officials describe bin Laden’s long presence in the hill-town of Abbottabad as a security lapse and reject suggestions that members of the military and intelligence service were complicit in hiding him there.
Asked if his sister would go to Yemen, Sadeh said:
“The most important thing is they leave Pakistan. If God is willing, the situation will be better when they reach their families. If God is willing, they will leave soon.”
Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel