Osama bin Laden: Family tells of last moments of the world’s most wanted man

image
Osama Bin Laden

For the first time the voices of
Osama’s wives and children can be
heard amid pages and pages of
eyewitness accounts.
Osama Bin Laden
The sound of footsteps and gunfire
was coming closer, up the stairs
towards the third floor where
Osama bin Laden, his youngest wife
Amal and one of his daughters
must have known their life on the
run was reaching its end.
On the landing outside their
refuge, Amal saw the dark form of
an American Navy Seal steady his
weapon, a red laser ray trained on
her husband’s chest. She flung
herself at the commando, in a
desperate attempt to snatch the
rifle away.
A bullet pierced her knee and more
shots followed. As she lay injured
on the bed, Amal heard the
American accents of soldiers asking
two of bin Laden’s daughters the
name of the man they just killed.
This is not another gung-ho
account of the raid on bin Laden’s
hideaway told by the Navy Seals
who mounted the assault, nor is it
the gripping climax of Zero Dark
Thirty , Hollywood’s version of the
story.
For the first time the voices of
Osama’s wives and children can be
heard amid pages and pages of
eyewitness accounts. This is the
story of the raid from inside the
high-walled compound and told to
Pakistani investigators.
The report of the Abbottabad
Commission, obtained by Al
Jazeera, heaps scorn on Pakistan’s
political and military establishment
for failing to realise that the
world’s most wanted man was
living in a town barely 30 miles
from the capital, and almost within
sight of the country’s officer
training academy. It accuses the
authorities of a catalogue of
failures, missing a string of
discrepancies that should have led
the hunt to the secretive villa in
Abbottabad.
“Over a period of time, an
effective intelligence agency should
have been able to contact, infiltrate
or co-opt [OBL’s support network],
and to develop a whole case load
of information. Apparently, this
was not the case,” it concluded.
It also details the way the world’s
most wanted man was able to move
through the country’s north-west
almost at will, building himself a
house, fathering children and
hiding in plain sight.
Bin Laden had settled in
Abbottabad, living for more than
six years in the custom-built house
with his three wives. They
described how they were woken on
the night of the raid by what they
thought was a storm but turned
out to be American Black Hawk
helicopters.
Footsteps on the roof followed
quickly and within minutes bin
Laden had been shot. Summaya,
one of bin Laden’s daughters, said
she knew immediately he was dead.
She described a bullet wound to his
forehead and the way “blood
flowed backwards over his head”.
After 36 minutes it was all over.
The wives were allowed to collect
bin Laden’s will and a few trinkets
before disappearing into the
custody of the Pakistan’s Inter-
Services Intelligence agency. The
comprehensive report, with
evidence from more than 200
witnesses, also gives insight into
the lengths bin Laden went to in
order to avoid detection – and the
opportunities missed to catch him.
After arriving in Pakistan, he lived
in the Swat Valley for several
months at the end of 2002. During
this period he came closest to
detection when his car was stopped
for speeding. Next, they moved to
the quiet town of Haripur, not
much more than an hour and half’s
drive from Islamabad.
There Amal gave birth to two
children at a local clinic. To keep
her from awkward questions, Abrar
al-Kuwaiti, one of bin Laden’s two
couriers, and his wife told the
doctors she was deaf and dumb.
They moved to Abbottabad in 2005
to a new high-walled home.
According to the report,
discrepancies in the purchase of
land, an unapproved third storey
and several odd features – such as
four electricity connections to keep
bills down – should all have
triggered alarm bells among
government agencies.
To locals, used to not asking
questions for fear of upsetting
gangsters or warlords, the villa was
known as Waziristan House”. Inside
the families were segregated. While
the wives and children of the two
couriers were able to leave the
compound, bin Laden’s relatives
stayed inside. He even took to
wearing a cowboy hat as he
exercised in the yard, for fear of
being spotted from above.
He also took pains to hide his true
identity from the families of the
two couriers but overlooked the
presence of a television set inside
the compound.
One day a few months before the
raid, Rahma, a daughter of one of
the couriers, spotted a picture of
bin Laden on Al Jazeera and
recognized him as the man she
called “Miskeen Baba” – or poor
uncle – from the main house. The
television was quickly banned and
all interaction between the two
families ended.

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