It was not a cave in the Tora Bora mountains where Osama bin Laden drew his last breath. It was not a teeming marketplace in Afghanistan, where the he lived a secret life shrouded in a female’s burqa. And it was not a hospital so primitive that no staff member had ever seen a dialysis machine where he succumbed to kidney failure.
Despite earlier speculation about his whereabouts, the architect of the 9/11 disasters lived as many as six of the last years of his life in relative ease in what some have described as a mansion north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. Hiding out “in plain view,” bin Laden made his home in a three-story dwelling with high walls limned in barbed wire.
Seeming to belie initial reports that the wealthy son of a Saudi family lived in splendor in a capacious multi-million-dollar spread, Tom Wright writes in today’s Wall Street Journal:
The house appears rather run-down, not the high-tech complex described in some reports. Grass grows off a ledge below the roof. The outside walls are scarred with damp and mold. An advertisement for Jamia Girls College, in Urdu and English, was painted by hand on one of the outside walls of the compound.
There were no air-conditioning units, meaning bin Laden would have had to suffer through the Pakistan summer.
That bin Laden lived in seclusion is evident from the fact that neighbors of the compound knew little of the inhabitants. Haji Bashir Khan, who lives a few houses away, assumed the occupants of the house to be money lenders.
Far and away the most troubling question about bin Laden’s hiding place is how he managed to escape detection by Pakistani military authorities. Abbottabad, the town where the compound was located, is a military-dominated town. The elite Pakistan Military Academy, the nation’s answer to West Point, is nearby and so are an army base and a police station. In fact, some experts presume that the sounds of the approaching American Blackhawk helicopters carrying what would be bin Laden’s executioners were unheeded by occupants of the compound because the people were so accustomed to hearing the whir of helicopters landing at the army base.
Some unconfirmed reports even suggest the compound was a safehouse provided by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The Pakistani government has some explaining to do.
- Pictures of bin Laden’s compound (VIDEO and SLIDESHOW)
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