The CIA allegedly held a vaccination drive to find out whether Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A high ranking member of the Pakistani medical service has been arrested for colluding with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. The man was arrested for assisting the American government in hunting for Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, the town where bin Laden was killed.

Doctor could face death penalty

A Pakistani doctor has been arrested by Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, for allegedly cooperating with the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an investigation by British newspaper The Guardian. He is accused of participating in a vaccine drive that served as a cover for a scheme to establish DNA evidence that Osama bin Laden was in the town of Abbottabad, according to the Guardian. Dr. Shakil Afridi is a senior member of the Pakistani medical services and was in charge of the Khyber region on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, to the northeast of Abbottabad. He could face the death penalty for cooperating with a foreign agency, according to The Telegraph.

DNA gathered in the U.S. gave CIA idea

The Pakistani government has been arresting people who assisted American authorities in the search for bin Laden. Various news agencies, including English newspaper The Guardian, have been trying to find their identities. Dr. Afridi is said to have carried out a vaccine drive at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency, administering hepatitis B vaccines and polio vaccination drops, according to the BBC. BBC sources in the area confirmed polio drops were being given out in Abbottabad, including to children at bin Laden’s compound. American authorities are said to have conceived of the scheme after they obtained DNA samples from one of bin Laden’s sisters, who died in Boston in 2010. The idea was reportedly to distribute vaccines throughout the Abbottabad area, meanwhile gathering genetic information by drawing blood or other methods and check it against genetic material from bin Laden’s deceased sister. If a direct relative were confirmed to be in the area, the CIA would then have reason to believe bin Laden was in Abbottabad.

Clinic in posh neighborhood made locals suspicious

It isn’t known how many children received vaccines or if any DNA evidence was obtained in the vaccination drive. According to the Guardian, health workers were distributing hepatitis B vaccines in the poor neighborhoods of Abbottobad in March but moved vaccination clinics to the wealthier areas in April. Hepatitis B vaccines have to be delivered in three doses, several weeks apart. There is little indication that any recipients of the first round of the vaccines received the second round. According to the New York Times, the vaccine drives were started in poor areas to establish the cover. It isn’t known if the CIA vaccine drive resulted in any information being discovered that led to bin Laden’s death, and the New York Times says that American officials maintain his presence wasn’t completely confirmed until he was killed.


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