Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad
|Osama bin Laden|
|Alternative names||Bin Laden hideout compound|
|Location||Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan|
|Elevation||1,260 m (4,130 ft)|
|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||8.76 m (28 ft 9 in)|
|Floor area||3,500 m2 (38,000 sq ft)|
|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, romanized: Wazīristān Havelī, lit. 'Waziristan Mansion'), was a large, upper-class house within a walled compound used as a safe house for militant Islamist Osama bin Laden, who was shot and killed there by U.S. forces on 2 May 2011. The compound was located at the end of a dirt road 1,300 metres (3⁄4 mile) southwest of the Pakistan Military Academy in Bilal Town, Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, a suburb housing many 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 unaware of his presence.
Completed in 2005, the main buildings in the compound lay on a 3,500-square-metre (38,000 sq ft) plot of land, much larger than those of nearby houses. Around its perimeter ran 3.7-to-5.5-metre-high (12 to 18 ft) 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 neighbourhood, except for its size and exaggerated security measures; for example, the third-floor balcony had a 2.13-metre (7 ft) 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. To date, the Pakistani government has not responded to any allegations as to who had built the structure.
After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. searched for bin Laden for nearly 10 years. By tracking his courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti to the compound, U.S. officials surmised that bin Laden was hiding there. During a raid on 2 May 2011, 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. 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 four kilometres (2+1⁄2 mi) northeast of the city centre 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 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 did not stand out from others in the neighborhood and it was difficult to see from a distance. The compound walls were higher than usual in the neighbourhood, 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, and aerial photographs showed several satellite dishes. There were two security gates and the third-floor balcony had a two-metre (6+1⁄2 ft) privacy wall. The compound measured 3,500 square metres (38,000 sq ft) in size, and had relatively few windows.
The compound was known as Waziristan Haveli (Urdu: وزیرستان حویلی) by the local residents. The compound's casual name referred to Waziristan, a region in Pakistan, and a haveli, which means "mansion". It was owned by a transporter from Waziristan; bin Laden previously spent time in the Waziristan area of Pakistan.
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 neighbours 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, 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.
CIA cache of computer files
In November 2017, the CIA publicly released the contents of a cache of nearly 470,000 computer files discovered on 183 separate devices during the Abbottabad Compound raid, giving the world a glimpse into the home life of Bin Laden, his family, and his closest allies.
Among the files discovered were a diary of Bin Laden's movements and thoughts regarding the state of Al Qaeda, several videos of beheadings, a 19-page report about Al Qaeda's links to Iran, and a video of Osama Bin Laden's son, Hamza, at his wedding (the first images of Hamza since his childhood). There were a number of US-produced documentaries about Bin Laden, including Morgan Spurlock's Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? and CNN's In the Footsteps of bin Laden.
But also found in the cache was a great deal of more typical internet-browsing and pirated content, including home videos, cat videos, clip art, a video called "HORSE_DANCE," wildlife documentaries, a copy of Charlie Bit My Finger, the animated films Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Antz, episodes of Jackie Chan Adventures, Tom and Jerry, and Case Closed, and copies of the video games Final Fantasy VII, Devil May Cry, Counter-Strike, Half-Life, and Resident Evil 2. There were also, reportedly, several pornographic video games and videos, although the CIA has not released specifics and withheld certain titles, citing copyright concerns.
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 surveilled 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 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
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.
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 officers. 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. Days after the raid, police allowed reporters and locals to approach the walls of the compound, but kept the doors sealed shut. There was intense media interest in the architecture of the compound. The construction included highly fortified walls made of concrete blocks with three gates, separating the building from the large courtyard and a garden planted with immature fruit trees in front of a collapsed wall.
Pakistan security agencies demolished the compound in February 2012 to prevent mujahideen from memorialising it. In February 2013, Pakistan announced plans to build a R265 million ($2.7m) amusement park in the area, including the property of the former hideout.
Locals disclosed details about their interactions with the residents of the compound to an AP journalist in Pakistan. A woman who distributed polio vaccines to the compound said she saw expensive SUVs parked inside. The men received the vaccine and instructed her to leave. A woman in her 70s said one of the men from the hideaway gave her a ride to the market in rainy weather. Her grandchildren played with the children living in the house, and received rabbits as presents. One farmer said, "People were skeptical in this neighbourhood 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 neighbourhood funerals, two men from the compound were "tall, fair skinned and bearded" and self-identified as cousins from elsewhere in the region. Neighbors said that 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 rupees (about US$0.60–$0.90), many times its value.
- "What was life like in the Bin Laden compound?". BBC. 3 May 2011.
- "How Pakistan helped the US get Osama". The news. 3 May 2011.
- Buncombe, Andrew (6 May 2011). "The actual plans for Bin Laden's "pucca" house". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
- "Original Plans for bin Laden's Compound Show Occupants Never Paid Taxes". The Independent. 10 May 2011.
- "Architecture on the lam: The compound where Osama bin Laden was killed". Los Angeles Times. 2 May 2011. Archived from the original on 5 May 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
- Alleyne, Richard (2 May 2011). "Osama bin Laden's hideaway was more fortress than home". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- Toosi, Nahal & Zarar Khan (4 May 2011). "Property records give new insights into bin Laden". Associated Press. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Sengupta, Kim (3 May 2011). "Trail that led from Guantanamo to a $1 m compound in Pakistan". The Independent. UK. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Myers, Steven Lee; Elisabeth Bumiller (3 May 2011). "Obama Calls World Safer After Death of Bin Laden". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Last Days of Osama bin Laden". National Geographic. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
- "Pakistan defends Bin Laden role". BBC Mobile South Asia. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Declan Walsh, Osama bin Laden hideout 'worth far less than US claimed', The Guardian, 4 May 2011.
- Dedman, Bill. "How the U.S. tracked couriers to elaborate bin Laden compound". NBC News. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- Mazzetti, Mark; Cooper, Helene (2 May 2011). "Detective Work on Courier Led to Breakthrough on Bin Laden". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- Toosi, Nahal; Khan, Zarar. "Bin Laden's neighbors noticed unusual things". NBC News. Associated Press. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Pakistan to demolish Osama's Abbottabad compound". OneIndia News. 6 May 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- "Abbottabad, The Peaceful Pakistani City Where Osama Bin Laden Met His Violent End". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
- Ismail Khan (3 May 2011). "Was Osama killed by US troops or his own guard?". Dawn. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Burke, Jason; Shah, Saeed (6 May 2011). "Osama bin Laden family compound". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- "Bin Laden aides bought big orders of Pepsi and Coke grocer says". Bloomberg. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- "'Can We Get Our Ball Back, Mister?' – Living Next Door To Osama Bin Laden". Radio Free Europe. 3 May 2011.
- Behind High Walls, Model Neighbors Were Harboring a Fugitive
- Anwar, Farooq; Latif, Sajid; Ashraf, Muhammad (2006). "Analytical characterization of hemp (Cannabis sativa) seed oil from different agro-ecological zones of Pakistan". Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. 83 (4): 323–329. doi:10.1007/s11746-006-1207-x. S2CID 86447808.
Hemp [...] is mainly distributed in the NWFP and grows abundantly along the roadsides in the northern regions of Pakistan
- "Osama bin Laden compound; raid details; Osama bin Laden photos; Senator Schumer interview". John King, USA. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- Trimble, Megan (11 November 2017). "Bin Laden Compound Computer Files Feature Cartoons, Beheadings". US News. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- "November 2017 Release of Abbottabad Compound Material". Central Intelligence Agency. United States Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- "Bin Laden raid: Son Hamza's wedding video in CIA file release". BBC News. 2 November 2017. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- Reuters Staff (1 November 2017). "CIA releases new tranche of materials seized in 2011 bin Laden raid". Reuters. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- NEWMAN, LILY HAY. "CIA Reveals What's Inside Osama Bin Laden's Files: GIFs, Memes, and Iran Ties". Wired. Wired News. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- Sharwood, Simon. "Osama Bin Laden had copy of Resident Evil, smut, in compound". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- "Osama the gamer: A list of Bin Laden's video games from his hard drive". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- "The Weirdest Things On Osama Bin Laden's Personal Computer - Digg". digg.com. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
- "Bin Laden compound in Pakistan was once an ISI safe house". Gulf News. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- "Bin Laden: Pakistan intelligence agency admits failures". BBC. 3 May 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Smith, Graeme (3 May 2011). "Bin Laden given haven by militants linked to Pakistani security forces". The Globe and Mail. Canada. Retrieved 4 May 2011.
- Isikoff, Michael (2 May 2011). "Bin Laden's death rekindles 'enhanced' interrogation debate". NBC News. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Mulrine, Ann (5 May 2011). "Military interrogators: Waterboarding didn't yield tips that led to bin Laden". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- "How Osama bin Laden Was Located and Killed". The New York Times. 8 May 2011.
- Newton-Small, Jay (3 May 2011). "Bin Laden May Have Lived at Abbottabad Compound for Six Years". TIME. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- "Bin Laden's widow says they lived in Pakistan for five years". Dawn. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Khan, Ismail (6 May 2011). "Osama lived in Haripur before moving to Abbottabad". Dawn. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- Cooper, Helene (6 May 2011). "U.S. Demands More From Pakistan in Bin Laden Inquiry". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
- Cooper, Helene (1 May 2011). "Obama Announces Killing of Osama bin Laden". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
- Dilanian, Ken (2 May 2011). "CIA led U.S. special forces mission against Osama bin Laden". Los Angeles Times.
- "Bin Laden raid was revealed on Twitter". BBC News. 2 May 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
- Martin, David, CBS Evening News, 3 May 2011.
- Katie Couric, CBS Evening News, 2 May 2011.
- "How U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden". CNN. 3 May 2011.
- Mazzetti, Mark (2 May 2011). "Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- McElroy, Damien (2 May 2011). "Osama bin Laden dead: son and presumed heir also killed in raid". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- Mark Landler; Mark Mazzetti (5 May 2011). "Account Tells of One-Sided Battle in Bin Laden Raid". The New York Times.
- Carlotta Gall; Salman Masood; Salman Masood (3 May 2011). "Behind High Walls, Model Neighbors Were Harboring a Fugitive". The New York Times.
- Carlotta Gall (4 May 2011). "Pakistani Military Investigates How Bin Laden Was Able to Hide in Plain View". The New York Times.
- Drogin, Bob; Parsons, Christi; Dilanian, Ken (3 May 2011). "How Bin Laden met his end". Los Angeles Times.
- "US raid slew Osama Bin Laden and buried at Sea". 5 May 2011.
- Philip Sherwell (7 May 2011). "Osama bin Laden killed: Behind the scenes of the deadly raid". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
- Dilanian, Ken (2 May 2011). "CIA led U.S. special forces mission against Osama bin Laden". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
- C. Christine Fair (4 May 2011). "The bin Laden aftermath: The U.S. shouldn't hold Pakistan's military against Pakistan's civilians". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- Matt Apuzzo (2 May 2011). "Official: Bin Laden's body is transferred to the USS Carl Vinson, and is buried at sea". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Retrieved 25 May 2011.
- "Abbottabad, the exact location of the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with American Navy Seals". Matei.org I Think Blog. May 2011. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "Bin Laden house handed over to police". Herald Sun. Australia. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
- Walsh, Declan (25 February 2012). "Pakistan Razing House Where Bin Laden Lived". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- "Bin Laden's Compound in Pakistan Demolished". Moscow: Ria Novosti. 25 February 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- "Osama Bin Laden's Pakistan compound demolished". BBC News. 26 February 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- "4 reasons Pakistan demolished bin Laden's compound". The Week. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- "4 reasons Pakistan demolished bin Laden's compound". BBC News. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- Ladd, Trevor J. (27 February 2012). "Osama Bin Laden's Pakistani Compound Demolished". ABC News. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
- "Bin Laden hideout to become theme park". News 24. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2013.
- Hodge, Amanda (4 May 2011). "Security agencies were 'clueless' but neighbourhood kids on the ball". The Australian. Retrieved 28 October 2018.