Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad
|Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad |
CIA aerial view of Osama bin Laden's compound from east
|Alternative names||Bin Laden hideout compound|
|Architectural style||Brutalist, Modern|
|Location||Bilal Town, Abbottābad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa|
|Inaugurated||6 January 2006 (date bin Laden was believed to have moved in)|
|Cost||US$250,000–1,000,000+ (disputed) (Rs. 21.25–85 million)|
|Floor area||38,000 square feet (3,500 m)|
|Design and construction|
|Client||Osama bin Laden|
|Owner||Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, Mohammed Arshad|
|Main contractor||Noor Mohammed|
|Structural engineer||Gul Mohammed (wall builder), Noor Mohammad|
Osama bin Laden's compound, known locally as the Waziristan Haveli (Urdu: وزیرستان حویلی; haveli means "mansion" and Waziristan is a region in Pakistan), is the safe house in which Osama bin Laden was hiding when he was killed. The structure is located 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy in Bilal Town, a suburb of Abbottābad, Pakistan. The suburban area of Bilal Town is an area housing retired military officers. Bin Laden was reported to have evaded capture living in this house for at least five years, hiding away from the public, who were unaware of his presence.
Completed in 2005, the 38,000-square-foot compound lies on a plot of land much larger than those of nearby houses. Its perimeter is 12- to 18-foot (3.7 to 5.5 m) concrete walls topped with barbed wire, and there are two security gates. The compound has very few windows. Little more than five years old, the compound's ramshackle buildings are badly in need of repainting. The grounds contained a well-kept vegetable garden, rabbits, some 100 chickens and a cow.
The house itself does not stand out architecturally from others in the neighborhood, except for its size and exaggerated security measures; for example, the third-floor balcony has a 7-foot (2.1 m) privacy wall. Photographs inside the house showed excessive clutter and modest furnishings. A 3d model of the compound shows, however, that the building was far bigger and more complex than most neighborhood structures.
During the May 2, 2011, raid, 24 U.S. Navy SEAL commandoes arrived by helicopter, breached a wall using explosives, and entered the compound. Encounters between the SEALs and the residents took place in the guest house, in the main building on the first floor where two adult males lived, and on the second and third floors where bin Laden lived with his family.
In the urban setting, the architecture of the bin Laden hideout has been called by an architect as "surprisingly permanent – and surprisingly urban" and "sure to join Saddam Hussein's last known address among the most notorious examples of hideout architecture in recent memory". The compound was fortified with many safeguard features intended to confuse would-be invaders, and U.S. officials described the compound as 'extraordinarily unique'. Associated Press identified the owner as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, who purchased the vacant land for the complex in 2004 and four adjoining lots between 2004 and 2005 for the equivalent of US$48,000.
Constructed between 2003 and 2005, the three-story structure is located on a dirt road 2.5 miles (4.0 km) northeast of the city center of Abbottābad. While the compound was assessed by U.S. officials at a value of US$1 million, local real-estate agents assess the property value at US$250,000. Intelligence reports have indicated that bin Laden may have moved into the complex on 6 January 2006.
On a plot of land much larger than those of nearby houses, it was surrounded by 5.5-metre (18 ft) concrete walls topped with barbed wire. Apart from its size, it does not stand out from others in the neighborhood and it was not easily seen except from close by. The compound walls are higher than usual in the neighborhood, although nearly all houses in Bilal Town have barbed wire. There were no phones or internet wires running into the compound. Security cameras were found installed, and aerial photographs show several satellite dishes. There were two security gates and the third-floor balcony had a 7-foot (2.1 m) privacy wall. The compound measured 38,000 square feet (3,500 m) in size, and had very few windows.
The compound was known as Waziristan Haveli by the local residents, and owned by a transporter from Waziristan; bin Laden previously spent time in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
One of the main builders of the compound, Gul Mohammed, was instructed to construct the 5.5-metre (18 ft) high perimeter fence and then to build another wall 7 feet (2.1 m) tall around one of the dwellings. He was suspicious due to the activities of his men, and when he asked why he was asked to build huge-fort like walls, he was told it was none of his business. According to Mohammed, one or two men came to supervise his work and that they were not restrictive with their money. He was to refer to the main occupant of the household as "The Master", even though he never met him.
Despite bin Laden's immense wealth and the initial U.S. claims of him living in a luxury mansion, the compound, despite being little more than five years old, consisted of ramshackle buildings, badly in need of repainting. The main gate was painted in a dark green color. The Daily Mail said, "with paint peeling off the walls, the dirt-infested compound appears barely habitable and is a far cry from original claims the compound was a sophisticated £1m hideaway". Pictures of inside the house showed excessive clutter, modest furnishings, poor quality foam mattresses, no air conditioning and old televisions. Several of the bedrooms had an attached kitchen and a bathroom. The children from the house were exclusively home schooled, in Arabic; one of the first floor rooms served as a classroom, with a whiteboard, markers and textbooks.
The self-described brothers of the house known to the neighbors would frequently visit the local shops. They would buy enough food to feed ten people, and purchased "the best brands—Nestle milk, the good-quality soaps and shampoos", Pepsi and Coca Cola. The food found at the house by the Pakistani authorities was basic, such as dates, nuts, eggs, olive oil and dried meat. The brothers would visit Rasheed's corner store, about a minute's walk from the house, with young children for whom they bought sweets and soft drinks. They also purchased bread from a local bakery.
Rabbits, some 100 chickens and a cow were reared on the compound grounds. A vegetable garden at the back of the house was well-kept, and Shamraiz, a neighbouring farmer, was paid to plant vegetables about twice a year. Days before the May 2011 raid Shamraiz was called to plough additional ground in the compound using a tractor. He never went inside the house itself.
The compound had an adjacent grazing area that hosted cows and a buffalo as well as a deep water well, possibly allowing it a water supply separate from the local municipality. There was a small garden on the north side of the house that included poplar trees. A farmer's field growing cabbages and potatoes surrounded the compound on three sides, and cannabis (which grows wild in the province) grew up to the side of the compound.
According to NBC News, the following drugs and medicines were found at the compound by Pakistani investigators: Tablet, Ulcer Capsule, Tab/Cap Gabapentin, Penza drops, Natrilix, Grucid, Avena syrup, NIFIM, an antibiotic, Syp, Tixylax (it is used generally for children for chest problems), Brufen and Dettole, an antiseptic.
Gulf News reported that it had previously been used as a safe house by Inter-Services Intelligence, but was no longer being used for this purpose. ISI admitted that this compound was raided in 2003 while under construction as Abu Faraj al-Libbi was suspected of living there. However, this account was disputed by American officials who said that satellite photos show that in 2004 the site was an empty field. The Globe and Mail reported local police saying that the compound belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen, a militant group supported by ISI that is fighting the Indian forces in Kashmir.
American intelligence officials discovered bin Laden's whereabouts by tracking one of his couriers, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti. Information was collected from Guantánamo Bay detainees who gave intelligence officers al-Kuwaiti's pseudonym and said that he was a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In 2007, U.S. officials discovered the courier's real name and, in 2009, that he lived in Abbottābad. Using satellite photos and intelligence reports, the CIA surmised the inhabitants of the compound. In September, the CIA concluded that the compound was "custom built to hide someone of significance" and that it was very likely that Osama bin Laden was residing there. Officials surmised that he was living there with his youngest wife. U.S. Intelligence estimates that bin Laden lived in the compound for five or six years, and it has been surmised that he could have moved into the house on 6 January 2006. Bin Laden's wife confirmed to the Pakistani authorities that they had lived in the compound for five years. Prior to moving to this compound they lived in the village of Chak Shah Muhammad, in the nearby Haripur District, for nearly two and a half years.
Operation Neptune Spear
The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was ordered by United States President Barack Obama and carried out in a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operation by a team of United States Navy SEALs from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (informally known as DEVGRU or by its former name SEAL Team Six) of the Joint Special Operations Command in conjunction with CIA operatives. The raid on the compound was launched from Afghanistan. After the raid U.S. forces took bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried it at sea within 24 hours of his death.
After the event
The hideout, now under the security control of the Pakistan Police, indicates highly fortified compound walls made of concrete blocks with three gates, zoning the building from the large courtyard and a garden planted with immature fruit trees in front of a collapsed wall. The remains of the Navy SEALs' helicopter that crashed during the U.S. operation were later removed from the site by a tractor.
Police have allowed reporters and locals to approach the wall of the hideaway. The doors are lodged in place, but police did not exert themselves to open them. Pakistan security agencies plan to demolish the compound to prevent it becoming a "sacred building for jihadis".
Locals have disclosed details about their interactions with the residents of the compound to an AP journalist in Pakistan. A woman who distributed polio vaccine to the compound said she saw expensive SUVs parked inside. The men received the vaccine and instructed her to leave. A woman in her seventies said that in rainy weather one of the men from the hideaway gave her a ride to the market. Her grandchildren had played with the children living in the house, and received rabbits as presents. One farmer said, "People were skeptical in this neighborhood about this place and these guys. They used to gossip, say they were smugglers or drug dealers. People would complain that even with such a big house they didn't invite the poor or distribute charity." Present at some neighborhood funerals, two men from the compound were "tall, fair skinned and bearded" and self-identified as cousins from elsewhere in the region. If a child's cricket ball went over the fence, the men in the compound did not return that ball; instead they paid the child 100–150 Pakistani rupees (about US$2–3), many times the value of the ball.
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