WASHINGTON — Pakistan's top spy agency has arrested five Pakistani informants who assisted the CIA ahead of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The men arrested reportedly include a Pakistani Army major said to have copied the license plate of cars that drove up to bin Laden's compound in the military town of Abbottabad, two hours from the capital Islamabad.
The Pakistani military denied that any army officer had been detained over what it called the "Abbottabad incident."
"The story is false and totally baseless," it said in a statement. A Pakistani security official earlier told AFP that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had no immediate comment on the report.
US officials told the newspaper that Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta raised the fate of the CIA informants during talks with Pakistani military and intelligence officers in Pakistan last week.
At a closed briefing last week, the CIA deputy director rated Pakistan's counterterrorism cooperation with the United States as three out of 10, officials told the newspaper.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States, wary at the best of times, deteriorated sharply over the bin Laden raid on May 2, which humiliated the Pakistani military and invited allegations of incompetence and complicity.
As President Barack Obama seeks to bring an end to the war in Pakistan's neighbor Afghanistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials have sought to play down any unease between them.
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told the Times that the CIA and the ISI "are working out mutually agreeable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage."
U.S. officials told the newspaper that ISI spies have resisted performing surveillance operations for the CIA, refused to grant visas to U.S. intelligence officers and threatened to place more restrictions on U.S. drone flights.
The United States said last week that it had nearly completed a drawdown in military personnel demanded by Pakistan, thought to reduce the number of trainers from 130 to fewer than 40.
The Times also said the CIA was preparing to relocate some of its drones from Pakistan to a base in Afghanistan in order to survey the mountainous tribal areas along the border.
© AFP 2013