The Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA locate Osama Bin Laden has said in the first interview since he was jailed that he didn’t know he was being used to find the Al Qaeda leader.
Dr Shakil Afridi, who was imprisoned by Pakistani authorities for ‘treason’ told Fox News: I didn’t know about a specific target apart from the work I was given to do.”
The doctor entered the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was believed to be living by pretending to offer polio vaccinations, it was reported. He then took part in a DNA collection scheme in connection with US Intelligence officials to confirm Bin Laden was hiding there.
The doctor denied all knowledge of Bin Laden's presence to Fox News, saying:
“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 in his killing.”
Following Bin Laden's death, Afridi said he was advised by the CIA to flee to Afghanistan. However he stayed put, believing he was safe as he wasn't aware of his pivotal role in Bin Laden’s death.
He was kidnapped by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI in January. He said they described America as “their worst enemy” and subjected him to torture with electric shocks and cigarette burns.
Handcuffed for a year and blindfolded for eight months, he described how he was forced to bend down on the floor and “eat like a dog.”
In May Afridi was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison by a tribal court in Pakistan.
Despite his living conditions greatly improving since being moved from the ISI’s basement compound to Peshawar prison, he still suffers from eyesight problems and limb pain.
It was not clear how he was able to give the interview but the BBC reported that he might have been able to smuggle a phone into his cell.
He told Fox News he was “proud” of his involvement with the CIA and would work with them again. “I have a lot of respect and love for your people,” he told Fox News.
Relations between America and Pakistan have been increasingly strained following the killing of Bin Laden.
The country was deeply embarrassed that it had been sheltering the terrorist leader, after denying all knowledge of Bin Laden's location. The storming of the compound by American SEAL Team 6 was felt to have further undermined Pakistani authority.
Additionally drone strikes are a source of friction in the increasingly taught relationship between Pakistan and the US, with Pakistan claiming the weapons kill civilians and drum up anti-American sentiment.
The US has argued that drones are vital weapons in the war against terror. In June Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, was killed in a drone attack on Pakistan.
Dr Afridi has been detained since January. He has also been ordered to pay $3,500 or face another three and half years behind bars.
US Defense secretary Leon Panetta told CBS that Dr Afridi "was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan... for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part".
Following the sentencing of Afridi the US Senate voted on an amendment to a bill that proposed to withdraw $1m of aid from the country for every year of Dr Afridi's jail sentence.