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Bin Laden hid in Pakistan city laden with military

By Nahal Toosi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 2 2011 2:35 p.m. MDT

FILE - In this file image from television transmitted by the arab news network Al-Jazeera on Monday Jan. 30, 2006, Al-Qaida's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri gestures while addressing the camera. Officials also said they believe the death of Osama bin Laden puts al-Qaida on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse, but there was no word on the whereabouts of al-Zawahri, bin Laden's second-in-command.

Al-Jazeera) ** INTERNET OUT ONLINE OUT TV OUT NO SALES **, Associated Press

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ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan — Osama bin Laden made his final stand in a small Pakistani city where three army regiments with thousands of soldiers are based not far from the capital — a location that is increasing suspicions in Washington that Islamabad may have been sheltering him.

The U.S. acted alone in Monday's helicopter raid, did not inform Pakistan until it was over and pointedly did not thank Pakistan at the end of a wildly successful operation. All this suggests more strain ahead in a relationship that was already suffering because of U.S. accusations that the Pakistanis are supporting Afghan militants and Pakistani anger over American drone attacks and spy activity.

Pakistani intelligence agencies are normally very sharp in sniffing out the presence of foreigners in small cities.

Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said bin Laden's location meant Pakistan had "a lot of explaining to do."

"I think this tells us once again that unfortunately Pakistan at times is playing a double game," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a member of the Armed Services Committee.

A senior Pakistan intelligence official dismissed speculation that bin Laden was being protected.

"We don't explain it. We just did not know — period," he said, on condition his name not be released to the media.

Suspicions that Pakistan harbors militants have been a major source of mistrust between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI — though the two agencies have cooperated in the arrests of al-Qaida leaders since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, including several in towns and cities outside the border area.

For years, Western intelligence had said bin Laden was most likely holed up in a cave along the Pakistan-Afghan border, a remote region of soaring mountains and thick forests where the Pakistan army has little presence. But the 10-year hunt for the world's most-wanted man ended in a whitewashed, three-story house in a middle-class area of Abbottabad, a leafy resort city of 400,000 people nestled in pine-forested hills less than 35 miles from the national capital, Islamabad.

The compound, which an Obama administration official said was "custom built to hide someone of significance," was about a half-mile (one kilometer) away from the Kakul Military Academy, one of several military installations in the bustling, hill-ringed town.

"Personally I feel that he must have thought it was the safest area," said Asad Munir, a former ISI station chief in the northwest. "Abbottabad is a place no one would expect him to live."

It was unclear how long bin Laden had been holed up in the house with members of his family. From the outside, the house resembled many others in Pakistan and even had a flag flying from a pole in the garden, apparently a Pakistani one. It had high, barbed-wire topped walls, few windows and was located in a neighborhood of smaller houses, shops, dusty litter-lined streets and empty plots used for growing vegetables.

Neighbors said large Landcruisers and other expensive cars were seen driving into the compound, but they had no indication that foreigners were living inside. Salman Riaz, a film actor, said that five months ago he and a crew tried to do some filming next to the house, but were told to stop by two men who came out.

"They told me that this is haram (forbidden in Islam)," he said.

A video aired by ABC News that purported to show the inside of the compound included footage of disheveled bedrooms with floors stained with large pools of blood and littered with clothes and paper. It also showed a dirt road outside the compound with large white walls on one side and a green agricultural field on the other.

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