DETROIT — A Michigan man claims he tipped federal investigators to the location of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan eight years before his killing and has hired attorneys to help him collect the $25 million reward.
The al-Qaida leader was killed in May 2011 during a Navy SEAL raid on the three-story compound. U.S. officials have said the house wasn’t built until 2005, and Pakistani officials have said they believe he moved there in the summer of that year.
A letter obtained Friday by The Associated Press from a Chicago-based law firm representing Grand Rapids resident Tom Lee says the 63-year-old gem merchant reported the location of bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad in 2003. The letter sent by the Loevy & Loevy law firm to FBI Director James Comey in August says a Pakistani intelligence agent told Lee that he escorted bin Laden and his family from Peshawar to Abbottabad.
The AP made a request to speak with Lee and Michael Kanovitz, the attorney who signed the letter, through the Loevy & Loevy law firm. The FBI didn’t immediately comment.
According to the letter, Lee, a U.S. citizen of Egyptian heritage, shared the information with customs and FBI agents. Lee reported that the Pakistani agent “was a member of a family that Mr. Lee had done business with for decades,” the letter said, and the agent and his family opposed bin Laden.
The letter said Lee, who lives in Grand Rapids, made “numerous attempts” to claim his reward but received no responses.
“Mr. Lee precisely identified the whereabouts of the most notorious terrorist of our era, a man responsible for the World Trade Center attacks, the most devastating act of terror committed on American soil, and numerous other assaults on Americans,” the letter said.
Lee told The Grand Rapids Press in an email Friday that he couldn’t understand why the government waited to act.
“It disturbs me, and it should disturb every American, that I told them exactly where bin Laden was in 2003, and they let him live another eight years,” he said in the email.
Bin Laden had slipped away from U.S. forces in the Afghan mountains of Tora Bora in 2001, and the CIA believed he had taken shelter in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan. The U.S. was eventually able to find bin Laden by tracing his courier, Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti.
One of bin Laden’s wives told Pakistani investigators that she moved to the Abbottabad home in 2006 and never left the top floors.
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Associated Press writer Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.