Islamabad, Asharq Al-Awsat – US Special Forces finally killed the most wanted man in the world, Osama Bin Laden, in the village of Abbottabad, in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, on 1 May 2011. One of Bin Laden’s sons was also reportedly killed in the attack. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry confirmed the death of Bin Laden – who was killed in a well-fortified compound close to a Pakistani military base – three hours after the news was reported by US news agencies. The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that “Osama Bin Laden’s death illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism. It [Bin Laden’s death] constitutes a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world.”
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari acknowledged that the Pakistani military had not taken part in the operation, writing in an opinion piece published by the Washington Post that “although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led to the elimination of Osama Bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world.” He also acknowledged that “he [Osama Bin Laden] was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone.”
Former Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency [ISI] chief General Hamid Gul told Asharq Al-Awsat that “US Special Forces carried out this operation alone. They do not trust the Pakistani Intelligence service, and that is the reason why Pakistani was not informed of the operation.”
However Abbottabad residents, speaking anonymously to Asharq Al-Awsat, claimed that Pakistani authorities warned them, prior to the beginning of the military operation, not to leave their homes and to turn off their lights. US Navy Seals carried out the operation to kill or capture Bin Laden, breaching the compound with 4 helicopters, one of which was forced to crash-land in a field nearby, reportedly due to mechanical failures, following the successful completion of the. Eye-witnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat that they had seen the US helicopter crash land in the field, and that a second helicopter landed close-by, with its passengers being safely transferred from one helicopter into the other. The crashed helicopter which was destroyed was reportedly either a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk.
It is not clear how long Bin Laden has been hiding within the fortified compound in Abbottabad; however some locals informed Asharq Al-Awsat that it had been built by a Pashtun figure approximately 10 years ago, which contradicts news reports that the compound was built in 2005. The Abbottabad resident added “this residential compound has always been a source of suspicion to us, for we never had any contact with the people living there.”
Whilst other residents said that they had seen some men and women with Arab features entering and leaving this residential compound. The Abbottabad residents who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat were defensive about living so close to the world’s most wanted man, asking how could they have guessed that a figure like Osama Bin Laden could be living in their midst, especially as Abbottabad is situated extremely close to a Pakistani military base.
Intelligence officials discovered this compound in August 2009 whilst monitoring a high-ranking Al Qaeda courier. The CIA has been hunting the courier in question for years, after he was identified by Guantanamo Bay detainees as being somebody trusted by Bin Laden.
The residential compound where Bin Laden was staying was nestled in an affluent neighborhood; the compound was surrounded by 18-foot high walls topped with barbed ware. Two security gates guarded the only entrance, whilst a third-floor terrace was shielded by a seven-foot privacy wall. The Abbottabad compound did not have any phone lines or internet cables running into the property, whilst its residents burned their garbage rather than putting it out for collection.
Former Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency [ISI] chief General Hamid Gul also told Asharq Al-Awsat that he had been aware of the belief that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, since August 2009. He added that Osama Bin Laden’s death will only increase Pakistan’s risk to Islamic extremism and terrorism.
He also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the helicopters used in the operation against Osama Bin Laden left from a secret US military base in the vicinity of Abbottabad.”
Gul added that, in his opinion, the second greatest threat to Pakistan comes from the reformation of the Al Qaeda leadership following Bin Laden’s death. He stressed that Osama Bin Laden never said one word against Pakistan, but “if Ayman al-Zawahiri takes over the leadership of the Al Qaeda organization then the threat of terrorism to Pakistani will increase.”
Around 1,000 people in Quetta, southern Pakistan, took to the streets yesterday protesting the killing of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, chanting “death to America!” The protests were led by Pakistani federal lawmaker Maulawi Asmatullah, who told Agence France-Presse [AFP] that “Bin Laden was the hero of the Muslim world, and after his martyrdom he has won the title of great mujahed (Muslim fighter).” He added “his martyrdom will not end the movement. It will continue and thousands more Bin Laden’s will be born.”