Pakistan militant group denies ties to doctor in bin Laden hunt despite court claims

The militant group that, according to a Pakistan court, had close ties to the doctor who helped the United States track Usama bin Laden is claiming to have no association with him.

A commander from the group Lashkar-e-Islam told AFP that "We have no link to such a shameless man. If we see him, we'll chew him alive."

The comment -- and the apparent enmity between the group and Dr. Shakil Afridi -- casts serious doubt on the allegations made in the court judgment used as the basis for Afridi's 33-year prison sentence.

It was initially assumed that Afridi was sentenced for his role in helping the U.S. find bin Laden.

But after U.S. officials expressed outrage at the Pakistani government and threatened to cut off aid, the judgment in the case emerged -- it accused him not of aiding U.S. intelligence, but assisting Lashkar-e-Islam.

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It claimed Afridi provided "financial assistance" to the group as well as "medical assistance" to its "militant commanders" while working at a hospital.

However, the Afridi tribe has actually had long-running tensions with Lashkar-e-Islam, which the commander speaking to the AFP seemed to confirm.

The unnamed commander acknowledged that Afridi paid Lashkar-e-Islam 2 million rupees ($21,000), but said the money was a fine imposed for overcharging patients.

"Afridi and his fellow doctor were fleecing tribesmen, giving them fake medicines and doing fake surgeries. We had a lot of complaints against them and imposed a fine of 2 million rupees on them," the commander said.

Afridi was sentenced to 33 years in prison in Peshawar after he was found guilty of treason last week. The ruling was made under the tribal justice system of Khyber district, part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt.

He also was fined 320,000 rupees ($3,500).

Afridi ran the fake vaccination program close to bin Laden's Abbottabad home in an attempt to collect DNA from the former terror leader's family.

Since his sentencing, the family of Afridi has appealed to the U.S. for help in providing lawyers and financial assistance in the case.

Lawmakers have also pushed to cut off at least part of Pakistan's funding unless they release Afridi.

In Washington, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would introduce a pair of bills next week to address Afridi's plight. One would strip Pakistan, which received $2.1 billion from the U.S. for the current fiscal year, of all foreign aid until Afridi's 33-year sentence is overturned and he's allowed to leave the country; the other bill would grant Afridi U.S. citizenship.

The measures would go beyond the vote by a Senate panel last week to strip Pakistan of $33 million in aid.

NewsCore contributed to this report.