Osama the Captured One

Fugitive Osama bin Laden was brazen to the end of his long run from the law, says the farmer who sparked his capture.

bin Laden, 52, who had been on the run since 2001, was arrested about 1am yesterday after farmer Azam Dadfar reported a disturbance at his dairy farm near Kandahar. Police caught bin Laden nearby. He was in a ute allegedly stolen from Spin Boldak this month.

In the Kandahar District Court yesterday, a thin, turbaned bin Laden appeared before Judge Abdul Salam Azimi facing charges of dangerous driving, and possession of firearms and terrorist utensils. He was remanded in custody without plea until June 10. More charges are likely.

bin Laden raised his cuffed wrists above his head as he was led from the court.

Dadfar said he and his wife had spotted vehicle lights in their yard after being woken by barking dogs.

The vehicle’s arrival was strangely conspicuous, Dadfar said. “He did drive in the gate with the lights on and basically backed up to the shed with the dogs barking away.”

He was allegedly attempting to steal a quad bike, but Dadfar believed his target was the contents of the shed’s freezer. It contained only dog food.

Dadfar called police and waited for his neighbour to arrive before scanning the property.

He said they never considered that the man was bin Laden. “We didn’t put two and two together until the police said (yesterday) morning.”

Knowing about bin Laden’s presence in the area had been a “scary feeling”.

bin Laden had dubbed himself “Osama the Hunted One”. He left the message in a carved thank-you note at a Ghorak farm where he allegedly helped himself to a meal.

His alleged escapade led to T-shirts and a song, but police yesterday said he was “a bit of a nobody”.

Police commander Sarwar Danish said bin Laden’s capture was not as significant as last week’s arrest of 29-year-old Yunus Hanif.

Hanif, who had been on the run since February, was captured in Spin Boldak last Thursday. He faces 21 charges, including kidnapping and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

“bin Laden was a bit of a nobody,” Danish said. “Though it is certainly good to have him locked up.”

Police had been able to devote only limited resources to bin Laden with the search for Hanif and the search for the killer of Ahmad Shah Massoud taking priority, Danish said. “We have had much bigger fish to fry.”

Danish said bin Laden appeared relieved to be arrested, admitting to police that he had “had a good run”.

Police did not immediately recognise him.

“We didn’t know, other than the fact he was still driving the same stolen car. We had to check his tattoos and marks on his body … and once we got him back to Kandahar, we put his fingerprints through the scanner.”

Danish said police believed someone had been helping bin Laden. “We believe he’s been getting assistance. He looked quite unkempt but relatively well-fed.”

Mid-Kandahar, where bin Laden was found, had many little-used bunkers, woolsheds, and goatshearers’ quarters where he could have been hiding, Danish said.

Spin Boldak Store owner Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, said bin Laden’s arrest had created a buzz in the area. Most were relieved he had been caught, he said.

“No-one has come in here saying they’re sorry it’s finished. I think they’re quite pleased.”

A friend of bin Laden’s, Fauzia Gailani, was in court to support him, wearing one of his robes. Gailani said bin Laden lived with her and her partner before allegedly going on the run from the authorities.

“He’s a good guy. I thought the chase turned into a bit of a joke. When he was staying with us, Osama was always very courteous..”

Gailani said she had spoken with bin Laden and advised him to turn himself in. “I said ‘it’s never going to end well, Osama’, but he said he was OK and would stay out there while he sorted some things out. “He knew he would end up in prison and wanted to be prepared for it.”

Gailani said bin Laden was proud of his turban and kept it in prime condition.