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|
|Elevation||4,120 ft (1,260 m)|
|Inaugurated||6 January 2006 (date bin Laden was believed to have moved in)|
|Demolished||26 February 2012|
|Cost||US$250,000–1,000,000+ (disputed) (Rs. 21.25–85 million)|
|Client||Osama bin Laden|
|Owner||Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, Mohammed Arshad|
|Roof||28 ft 9 in (8.76 m)|
|Floor area||38,000 square feet (3,500 m2)|
|Design and construction|
|Architecture firm||Modern Associates|
|Structural engineer||Gul Mohammed (wall builder), Noor Mohammad|
|Main contractor||Noor Mohammed|
Osama bin Laden's compound, known locally as the Waziristan Haveli (Urdu: وزیرستان حویلی; haveli means "mansion" and Waziristan is a region in Pakistan), was an upper-class mansion that was used as a safe house in which the militant Islamist Osama bin Laden was hiding when he was killed and as a family home for Waziristan family who lived with Osama Bin Laden. The Mansion was located at the end of a dirt road just 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Pakistan, a suburban town housing retired military officers. Bin Laden was reported to have evaded capture by living in a section of the house for at least five years, having no internet or phone connection, and hiding away from the public, who were allegedly unaware of his presence.
Completed in 2005, the main buildings in the compound lay on a 38,000-square-foot (3,500 m2) plot of land, much larger than those of nearby houses. Its perimeter was 12- to 18-foot (3.7 to 5.5 m) concrete walls topped with barbed wire, and there were two security gates. The compound had very few windows. Little more than five years old, the compound's ramshackle buildings were badly in need of repainting. The grounds contained a well-kept vegetable garden, rabbits, some 100 chickens, and a cow. The house itself did not stand out architecturally from others in the neighborhood, except for its size and exaggerated security measures; for example, the third-floor balcony had a 7-foot (2.1 m) privacy wall. Photographs inside the house showed excessive clutter and modest furnishings. After the American mission there was extensive interest in and reporting about the compound and its design.
After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the US searched for bin Laden for nearly 10 years. By tracking his courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti to the compound, US officials surmised that bin Laden was hiding there. During a May 2, 2011 raid, 24 members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group arrived by helicopter, breached a wall using explosives, and entered the compound in search of bin Laden. 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. After the operation was completed and bin Laden was killed, Pakistan demolished the structure in February 2012.
In the urban setting, the architecture of the bin Laden hideout was 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 was located on a dirt road 2.5 miles (4 km) northeast of the city center of Abbottābad. The local architect for the project said it was only built and planned for a two-story structure and that the third floor (where bin Laden lived) was built afterwards in an illegal construction. 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 were 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 m2) in size, and had relatively few windows.
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 told to refer to the main occupant of the household as "The Master", even though he never met him.
The house where the Bin Laden family lived on the two upper floors was large and modestly furnished. It had "cheap foam mattresses, no air conditioning (but central heating) and old televisions." Several of the bedrooms had an attached kitchen and a bathroom. One of the first floor rooms was furnished with a whiteboard, markers and textbooks, to serve as a classroom for the children in the house, who were home schooled in Arabic.
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 wild Cannabis plants 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, Tixylix (used generally for paediatric bronchitis), Brufen and Dettol (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 alleged 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 compound was believed to be built around the summer of 2005 to late 2006, based on local accounts, most likely completed in late 2005 as intelligence reports indicate Bin Laden may have moved into the house on 6 January 2006.
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. Bin Laden's wife confirmed to the Pakistani authorities that they had lived in the compound for five years. Prior to moving to the 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
Following the raid, the former hideout was placed under the security control of the Pakistan Police. The construction indicated 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 allowed reporters and locals to approach the wall of the hideaway. The doors were lodged in place, but police did not exert themselves to open them. Pakistan security agencies demolished the compound in February 2012 to prevent it from becoming a "sacred building for jihadis."
Locals 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 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 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$1–1.50), many times the value of the ball.
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- Download. Install. Explore the compound in High End 3D.
- Video inside the compound and house
- Letters from Abbottabad. Original and translation archived on 3 May 2012.
- Inside the Situation Room: Obama on making OBL raid decision -a documentary behind the raid