ISLAMAAD: Osama bin Laden's family is expected to be deported from Pakistan early on Wednesday, their lawyer and an intelligence official have said, less than a year after the al-Qaeda leader was killed by US Navy SEALS.
Bin Laden's three widows and their children were detained by the Pakistani authorities after the Saudi was killed in an operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad, north of Islamabad, last May.
The news came as Washington and Islamabad try to patch up their relationship, which was badly damaged by the revelation that the world's most wanted man was living a stone's throw from Pakistan's elite military academy.
Two weeks ago a court sentenced the widows and two of bin Laden's older daughters to 45 days' detention on charges of illegal entry and residency in Pakistan and ordered their deportation as soon as possible.
They are due to complete the sentence, served in an Islamabad villa designated by authorities as a "sub-jail", on Tuesday, as it officially began when they were formally arrested on the charges on March 3.
"They will go tonight or tomorrow early in the morning. After 12 tonight they can be deported any time," their lawyer Muhammad Aamir told AFP on Tuesday.
Aamir said the family – who number 12, including bin Laden's three widows, eight children and one grandchild – would probably initially go to Saudi Arabia.
He said bin Laden's youngest and reportedly favourite wife, Amal Abdulfattah, who is Yemeni, may be sent to Yemen afterwards with her five children.
A Pakistani intelligence official confirmed to AFP that the family was expected to be deported "sometime around midnight" and said "most likely they would be flown to Saudi Arabia."
The discovery of the 9/11 mastermind in Abbottabad dealt a massive blow to US-Pakistan relations and led to accusations of Pakistani complicity or incompetence.
Abdulfattah, 30, told Pakistani interrogators bin Laden had fathered four children while he hid out in Pakistan, according to a police report seen by AFP last month.
After fleeing Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden moved his family around Pakistan before settling in a three-storey house inside a walled compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad in 2005.
According to the police report, the family movements while they were on the run were organised by "Ibrahim and Abrar", two Pakistanis given responsibility for the task by members of al-Qaeda.
Both the men were killed during the raid on Abbottabad and had been living in the same compound, along with Ibrahim's wife, Bushra, and bin Laden's son, Khalid.
The continued detention of bin Laden's wives led to accusations that Pakistan was attempting to muzzle them to stop them from providing details that could embarrass Islamabad or add to suspicions it knew where bin Laden was.
Pakistan, allied to Washington in the "war on terror", was humiliated by the covert American operation that killed the al-Qaeda leader in the early hours of May 2.