ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan has sparked outrage after telling his country's parliament that former al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden had been "martyred" by U.S. forces.
"I will never forget how we Pakistanis were embarrassed when the Americans came into Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, martyred him," Khan told lawmakers Thursday, while recounting the lows of the relationship between Islamabad and Washington.
His comments were immediately criticized by rival politicians.
Opposition leader Khawaja Asif, the foreign minister in the last government, was among those who objected to the remark, describing bin Laden as the "ultimate terrorist," in his response to Khan's comment.
"He destroyed my nation, and he (Khan) is calling him a martyr," said Asif.
Pakistan was not aware of the operation, which involved U.S. helicopters flying deep into the country from Afghanistan.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, whose Pakistan Peoples Party was in power when bin Laden was killed, accused the prime minister of appeasing violent extremism.
A spokesman for Pakistan's government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Khan's remarks and the opposition leaders' criticism.
Khan's speech came as the country's foreign office hit out at a U.S. State Department report that accused Pakistan of continuing to be a safe haven for "regionally focused terrorist groups".
"While the report recognizes that al Qaeda has been seriously degraded in the region, it neglects to mention Pakistan's crucial role in decimating al Qaeda, thereby diminishing the threat that the terrorist group once posed to the world," the foreign office statement said on Thursday.