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Delay in bin Laden family departure

The plan to deport Osama bin Laden's three widows and their nine children from Pakistan has hit more bureaucratic problems, making it uncertain when they would leave.

The family was detained by Pakistani authorities last May after US troops raided the compound where the al Qaida chief was hiding and killed him.

Pakistan interrogated the family members and eventually charged the widows and two adult daughters last month with illegally entering and living in the country. The five women were convicted at the beginning of April and sentenced to 45 days in prison, with credit for about a month served.

Their prison term, which was spent at a well-guarded house in Islamabad, ended on Tuesday. They were scheduled to be deported after the completion of their sentence, but their departure has been held up for bureaucratic reasons, said their lawyer Atif Ali Khan.

Mr Khan said Pakistan's Interior Ministry has not yet issued the necessary authorisation for the family to leave, and it is unclear exactly when that would happen.

Two of the widows are from Saudi Arabia, and one is from Yemen.

There have been questions about Saudi Arabia's willingness to take the family.

Saudi Arabia stripped bin Laden of his citizenship in 1994 because of his verbal attacks against the Saudi royal family. Saudi officials have declined to comment on the prospect of bin Laden's family returning.

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