WASHINGTON Pakistan's top military spy agency has arrested five CIA informants who fed information to U.S. intelligence before the raid last month which killed Osama bin Laden, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
One of the detainees was reported to be a Pakistani Army major whom officials said copied license plates of cars visiting the al Qaeda leader's compound 30 miles northwest of Islamabad.
The fate of the CIA informants arrested in Pakistan was unclear, the newspaper reported, citing American officials.
Outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta raised the issue of the informants' detention during a trip to Islamabad last week where he met Pakistani military and intelligence officers, the newspaper said.
The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, Pakistan's main military spy agency, declined to comment, but the army denied that any army major was among those arrested in connection with the May 2 raid by U.S. special forces in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
"There is no truth in NYT story with regards to involvement and arrest of army major in connection with the OBL (Osama bin Laden) incident," military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said in a statement.
A senior Pakistani security official said some people were detained in connection with the Abbottabad raid and they were still being investigated.
Asked whether those arrested were CIA informants as mentioned in the NYT report, he said: "Investigations are under way and after completion of investigation one cay say which category they belonged to."
Some in Washington see the arrest as another sign of the deep disconnect between U.S. and Pakistani priorities in the fight against extremists, the Times reported.
The United States kept Islamabad in the dark about the May 2 raid by Navy SEALs until after it was completed, humiliating Pakistan's armed forces and putting U.S. military and intelligence ties under serious strain.
Last week, at a closed Senate Intelligence Committee briefing, Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell rated Pakistan's cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations a "three" on a scale of 1 to 10, the Times reported, citing officials familiar with the exchange.
Other officials cautioned that his comments did not represent the administration's overall assessment, the newspaper said. "We have a strong relationship with our Pakistani counterparts and work through issues when they arise," CIA spokesman Marie Harf told the newspaper.
"Director Panetta had productive meetings last week in Islamabad. It's a crucial partnership, and we will continue to work together in the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who threaten our country and theirs."
Asked about the Times report, a CIA spokeswoman neither confirmed nor denied it and said she had no further comment.
Pakistan's Ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, was quoted as saying that the CIA and the Pakistani spy agency "are working out mutually agreeable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage."
(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider in Islamabad; Editing by Chris Allbritton and Alex Richardson)