This Sunday marked five years since a team of US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden during a CIA-led raid on the al-Qaeda leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The agency celebrated by tweeting details about the raid as though it were happening live.

One person whose name didn’t make it into the CIA’s tweet storm: Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who reportedly helped the agency try to confirm that bin Laden was living at the compound.

While the CIA was tweeting, Afridi remained locked up in a Pakistani prison.

If you know anything about the story of how US President Barack Obama ended up ordering the raid on bin Laden’s compound, then maybe you’ve heard bits and pieces about the role Afridi played in finding and killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist.


Afridi, a doctor and health official in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region, headed up a vaccination campaign in the suburb where bin Laden’s suspected compound was located. It turns out that program was no ordinary public health initiative. It was a CIA operation designed to confirm bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad by collecting DNA from one of his family members.

Pakistani officials were infuriated that they hadn’t been notified about the raid, and the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) soon arrested Afridi over his role in tracking bin Laden. A judicial commission recommended trying him for treason. He was sentenced to 33 years in prison in 2012 — surprisingly not for his CIA work, but rather for a ransom payment made on his behalf to the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group, which had abducted Afridi in 2008. Pakistan said it constituted financial support for a terrorist group.

Lashkar-e-Islam wasn’t especially appreciative, though. Lashkar commander Abdul Rasheed responded to the sentence by threatening to kill Afridi for working with the CIA. “[W]e will kill the foreign agent, if we get the opportunity,” Rasheed said, according to CBS News.