Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the US to locate Osama Bin Laden, has said he was unaware he was involved with the 2011 killing of the al-Qaeda chief.
Speaking for the first time since his arrest, Shakil Afridi told Fox News he did not think he needed to escape after the killing but was then kidnapped by Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency.
He said the ISI, who he says tortured him, regards the US as its worst enemy.
Dr. Shakil Afridi is understood to have been contacted by phone in jail in Peshawar.
Prison officials were taken by surprise by reports of the interview, but did not rule out that a phone could have been smuggled into his cell.
The doctor is alleged to have used a fake hepatitis B vaccination campaign to obtain DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden’s family.
He was sentenced to 33 years in jail in May for funding and supporting a militant group, but correspondents say it is generally acknowledged he is being punished for helping the CIA.
The interview was published on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US, and came as current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri confirmed the death of another senior figure in the network, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in a US drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal areas earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s brother Mohamed told CNN that he was prepared to negotiate peace between the West and Islamists.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who spent 14 years in jail in Egypt, is said to have the respect of the new Egyptian government but claims to be ideologically close to his brother.
Speaking from Peshawar Central Jail, Dr. Shakil Afridi said he had not realized that the CIA was targeting Osama Bin Laden.
“I didn’t know about a specific target apart from the work I was given to do,” he told Fox News.
“I was aware that some terrorists were residing in that compound, but I didn’t know whom. I was shocked. I didn’t believe I was associated with his killing.”
He said that the CIA advised him to flee to Afghanistan.
However, he was scared to cross the volatile border region and did not think it was necessary for him to escape because he did not consider himself to be involved in Osama Bin Laden’s death, he said.
Dr. Shakil Afridi was arrested at a checkpoint at Hayatabad on 22 May last year, 20 days after Osama Bin Laden’s death.
After this he says he was blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed for a year in a prison beneath the ISI headquarters in Islamabad.
“I had to bend down on my knees to eat with only my mouth, like a dog,” he said.
During interrogations he was tortured with cigarette burns and electric shocks, he said, as the ISI rebuked him for helping the US find Bin Laden.
“They said: <<The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians>>,” he added.
Dr. Shakil Afridi also said fellow inmates had told him that they had been advised to make things up to prevent interrogation by visiting CIA officers.
He said that he himself was “proud” to work with the CIA and would help the US again despite the torture and psychological abuse he said he had suffered.
“I have a lot of respect and love for your people,” he said.
There has been no official response to Shakil Afridi’s allegations, but the Pakistani authorities have always insisted that they treated him the way any country would someone found working for a foreign spy agency.
Osama Bin Laden’s killing created a crisis in relations between the US and Pakistan, whose government was seriously embarrassed as it emerged Bin Laden had been living in Pakistan.
Islamabad felt the covert US operation was a violation of its sovereignty.
Both US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said Dr. Shakil Afridi’s arrest was a mistake and called for his release.