Pakistan gave China access to the "stealth" helicopter that crashed during the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May despite explicit requests from the CIA not to, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.
During the raid, one of two modified Blackhawk helicopters, believed to employ unknown stealth capability, malfunctioned and crashed, forcing the commandos to abandon it. See GlobalPost: Navy SEALs had "kill" order on Osama bin Laden, report claims
"The US now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI, gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad," the paper quoted a person "in intelligence circles" as saying.
Pakistan let China see downed US chopper: report
Pakistan gave China access to the previously unknown "stealth" helicopter that crashed during the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, despite explicit requests from the CIA not to, according to a British newspaper.
The revelation, if confirmed, is likely to further shake the United States-Pakistan relationship, which has been improving slightly after hitting its lowest point in decades following the May 2 bin Laden raid.
During the raid, one of two modified Blackhawk helicopters, believed to employ unknown stealth capability, malfunctioned and crashed, forcing the commandos to abandon it.
"The US now has information that Pakistan, particularly the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate), gave access to the Chinese military to the downed helicopter in Abbottabad," London's Financial Times newspaper quoted a person "in intelligence circles" as saying.
Pakistan, which enjoys a close relationship with China, allowed Chinese intelligence officials to take pictures of the crashed chopper as well as take samples of its special "skin" that allowed the American raid to evade Pakistani radar, the newspaper reported.
No one from the Pakistani army was available for comment, but the ISI, Pakistan's top spy agency, denied the report. The paper said Pakistan's top general, chief of army staff Ashfaq Kayani, denied that China had been given access.
The surviving tail section, photos of which were widely distributed on the internet, was returned to the US following a trip by US senator John Kerry in May, a spokesman for the US said.
Shortly after the raid, Pakistan hinted that it might give China access to the downed chopper, given its fury over the raid, which it considers a grievous violation of its sovereignty.
"We had explicitly asked the Pakistanis in the immediate aftermath of the raid not to let anyone have access to the damaged remains of the helicopter," the Financial Times quoted the source as saying.
In an incident such as the helicopter crash, it is standard American procedure to destroy sophisticated technology such as encrypted communications and navigation computers.
Pakistan is a strategic ally to the US but the relationship has been on a downward spiral since the killing of the al Qaeda leader in the raid by US forces.
Islamabad was not informed in advance and responded by cutting back on US trainers in the country and placing limits on CIA activities there.
The fact that the al Qaeda chief lived for years near the Pakistani army's main academy in the north-western garrison town of Abbottabad reinforced suspicions in Washington about Islamabad's reliability in the war against militant Islamists.
There are also growing frustrations with Pakistan over its reluctance to mount offensives against militant factions who are fighting US-led foreign forces across the border in Afghanistan.
In a show of displeasure over Pakistan's cutback in US trainers, its limits on visas for US personnel and other bilateral irritants, the United States recently suspended about a third of its $US2.7 billion ($2.6 million) annual defence aid to Pakistan.
Despite this, both sides have tried to prevent a breakdown of relations.
The head of Pakistan's powerful ISI, Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, visited the US last month for talks with US government and intelligence officials, which both sides said went well.
Despite the billions in aid, Pakistan still considers China a more reliable ally than the US. China is a major investor in predominantly Muslim Pakistan areas such as telecommunications, ports and infrastructure. The countries are linked by a Chinese-built road pushed through Pakistan's northern mountains.
Trade with Pakistan is worth almost $US9 billion a year for Pakistan, and China is its top arms supplier.
In the wake of attacks that left 11 people dead in the China's western region of Xinjiang in late July, Pakistan quickly dispatched Lieutenant-General Pasha to Beijing.