Bin Laden's luxury hideout raises questions

By Nahal Toosi

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 2 2011 5:10 p.m. MDT

An image made from Geo TV video shows flames at what is thought to be the compound where terror mastermind Osama bin Laden was killed Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Abbatabad, Pakistan.

GEO TV) TV OUT, NO SALES, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

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.

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.

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.

Extra security forces swarmed the city on Monday, adding to Abbottabad's already massive military presence. Heavily armed trucks rumbled through, and police shooed children away from around the compound.

At one point, a soldier armed with a gun could be seen walking on its roof, as tense crowds of onlookers suddenly swelled in the narrow street leading away from the site.

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.

After nightfall on Monday, a single light shone from inside the compound.

Some residents were alarmed. "We're very concerned for this town. It was a very safe place. Now there could be al-Qaida everywhere," said Naeem Munir.

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