Everything We Know About The Doctor Who Helped Find Osama Bin Laden

Dr. Shakil Afridi is thought to be directly responsible for helping the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) pinpoint the location of terrorist Osama bin Laden within his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Per The Daily Beast, Afridi was a top doctor in the Khyber district as well as a government employee with a history of running vaccination programs funded by the United States. The CIA reportedly asked him to start a fake hepatitis immunization program in Abbottabad with the goal of obtaining a blood sample from at least one of the children from the bin Laden compound. The CIA would then test the sample to see if the children shared DNA with Osama bin Laden, confirming they were on the right track. 

Afridi reportedly took six World Heath Organization coolers from his workplace, Jamrud Hospital, and spent a lot of time away from work, only telling co-workers that he had "business" in Abbottabad. Afridi hired a nurse who thought the vaccination program was real, and she apparently did get into the compound. It's unknown for sure if she got a blood sample, but in 2012, then U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that Afridi was "very helpful" during the planning of the May 2011 raid by Navy SEALs that ended in bin Laden's death. Afridi was arrested by Pakistani intelligence officers three weeks after the raid; a government commission recommended he be charged with "conspiracy against the state of Pakistan and high treason."

Shakil Afridi remains in solitary confinement

As reported by India Today, Shakil Afridi remains in solitary confinement in Sahiwal Jail in Pakistan's Punjab province. He's not allowed to speak to anyone but his family and lawyers. Per former Pakistan ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani, Afridi "is being kept in prison now only to teach every Pakistani a lesson not to cooperate with a western intelligence agency." Geo Pakistan reported that two United States officials told Reuters in 2012 that the U.S. offered to resettle Afridi and his family outside of Pakistan in 2011, but Afridi rejected the offer. Afridi wasn't actually found guilty of anything related to the bin Laden raid; he was convicted by a tribal court of providing money to the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Islam and received a sentence of 33 years. Per the BBC, the United States responded by cutting federal aid to Pakistan by $33 million. 

Former head of Pakistan's spy agency Asad Durrani told India Today that had Afridi not been arrested, he probably would have been lynched as "[w]henever someone works for a foreign intelligence agency, it's one of the most unforgivable crimes." Many Pakistani parents now refuse to have their children vaccinated against diseases like polio, mistrusting all vaccination programs after Afridi's fake one became so notorious. People have also attacked and gunned down legitimate vaccine workers over the last decade. According to the BBC, the original sentence was reduced to 23 years on appeal. Affridi's wife and children live in hiding, denying the charges that Afridi funded Lashkar-e-Islam.