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Pakistan deports bin Laden family

Osama bin Laden's three widows and his children have been deported from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia.

The move comes less than a week before the first anniversary of the American raid which killed the al Qaida leader in his hideout in a military town.

The departure of the family closed another chapter in an affair that cemented Pakistan's reputation as a hub of Islamist extremism and cast doubt on its trustworthiness as a Western ally. In February, authorities bulldozed the large compound where bin Laden had lived in the north-western garrison town of Abbottabad.

The US commandos took bin Laden's body, which they later buried at sea, but left his family behind. His wives and children were detained by Pakistani authorities immediately after the pre-dawn raid on May 2 last year. Two of the widows are from Saudi Arabia, and the third is from Yemen.

They were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agents and eventually charged last month with illegally entering and living in the country. The three wives and two adult daughters were convicted and sentenced to 45 days in prison. Their prison term, which was spent at a well-guarded house in Islamabad, ended earlier this month.

Soon after midnight, a van took the women and children from the house in the centre of the capital, Islamabad, en route to the airport. Officials covered the vehicle with sheets to prevent photographers from taking their pictures.

A statement from the Interior Ministry said 14 members of the bin Laden family had been deported to the "country of their choice, Saudi Arabia".

Few details have been released about the family, but officials have said bin Laden had three wives, at least eight children and some grandchildren living with him in the house when it was raided by the Americans. It is unclear whether Pakistan gave US intelligence officials any access to the wives, who are likely to have information about how bin Laden managed to evade capture in Pakistan for nearly a decade following the September 11 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

Separately, a judge has denied a request to release photos and video taken of Osama bin Laden during and after a raid in which the terrorist leader was killed by US commandos.

In court papers, the US Justice Department had said that the images of the dead bin Laden were classified and were being withheld from the public to avoid inciting violence against Americans overseas and compromising secret systems and techniques used by the CIA and the military. "The court declines plaintiff's invitation to substitute its own judgment about the national-security risks inherent in releasing these records for that of the executive-branch officials who determined that they should be classified," US District Judge James Boasberg wrote in rejecting a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

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