NEW YORK - Defence Secretary Leon Panetta says he is “very concerned” about a Pakistani doctor who was arrested for providing key intelligence for the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year, while also repeating US claims that someone in authority in Pakistan knew about al-Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.

Dr Shakil Afridi is charged with running a clandestine CIA-run programme in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed, and Panetta has now confirmed his role. The Pakistani commission investigating the Abbottabad raid says he should be tried for treason.

But Panetta, who was CIA chief when US commandos raided Osama’s house in Abbottabad May 2, told the CBS TV network Dr Afridi’s arrest had been “a real mistake“. Dr Afridi, he added, provided “very helpful” information for the raid.

He was arrested shortly after the US operation. The aim of Dr Afridi’s programme was to confirm bin Laden’s presence in the city by obtaining a DNA sample from residents. But it is not clear if any DNA from bin Laden or any family members was ever obtained. Washington has been arguing that Dr Afridi should be freed and allowed to live in the US.

In an interview with the CBS’ popular programme “60 Minutes” to be aired on Sunday night, Panetta said: “I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual.”

He added that his action “was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan.

“As a matter of fact Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part,” Panetta said.

Panetta also reiterated that someone in authority in Pakistan must have known where bin Laden was hiding at the compound - located close to the country’s top military academy.

“I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound,” he said. “Don’t forget, this compound had 18-foot walls. It was the largest compound in the area.”

Explaining why Pakistan was not made aware of the US raid, Panetta said, “We had seen some military helicopters actually going over this compound. And for that reason, it concerned us that, if we, in fact, brought [Pakistan] into it, that - they might...give bin Laden a heads up.”

Pressed by CBS’ Scott Pelley as to whether he knows for sure that the government of Pakistan knew where bin Laden was, he replies, “I don’t have any hard evidence, so I can’t say it for a fact. There’s nothing that proves the case. But as I said, my personal view is that somebody somewhere probably had that knowledge,” Panetta says.

Agencies add: Vice-President Joe Biden said he advised President Barack Obama last spring not to immediately authorise the raid on the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was thought to be hiding.

“My suggestion is, don t go,” Biden recalled saying when Obama sought his opinion on whether to give Navy Seals the go-ahead to raid the compound. “We have to do two more things to see if he’s there.” Biden recalled the conversation while addressing Democratic members of Congress on Friday at a retreat in Cambridge, Md. He did not specify which two things he had considered necessary for the operation against bin Laden to proceed.

Biden said Obama also sought opinions from senior advisers, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Biden did not say where the conversations took place, but he recalled that no one was willing to give a definitive answer except then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, who told Obama to move forward with the Seals operation, Biden said. “Everyone else said 49, 51, this,” Biden said. “It got to me. He said,  Joe, what do you think?  and I said,  You know, I didn’t know we have so many economists around the table. We owe the man a direct answer.  “

Obama then left the room, saying he would come to a decision, Biden said. The next morning, as Obama was boarding the presidential helicopter, he told National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, “Go.”