Conflicts & War

Osama bin Laden: A vague memory in Abbottabad, 10 years after death

By Jaime Leon

Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 2 (EFE).- Osama bin Laden remains just a vague memory in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad where he was killed 10 years ago, and his former residence is now a vacant lot where children play cricket and football.

“Osama bin Laden? I don’t know very well who he is. I heard about him, but I don’t know much,” Sultan, 16, told EFE at the same premises where the building that housed the world’s most wanted terrorist and his three wives and eight children for at least five years once stood.

Next to him, little Faisal said that the spot is known as the “Osama compound,” but that the important thing for them is that they have a place to play cricket and football.

“We are happy because we can play here. There are no parks or playgrounds in the area,” said the 11-year-old about the compound located just 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) from Kakul Academy, a military school of the powerful Pakistani Army.

In this same compound in the early hours of May 2, 2011, 23 US Navy Seals killed the world’s most wanted terrorist in an operation in which the al-Qaeda leader’s two Saudi bodyguards and a few family members also died.

The 38-minute mission was carried out without the knowledge of the Pakistani civilian and military authorities, according to the official version of Islamabad and Washington.

A decade later, people in the neighborhood recalled that day.

“I thought it was some celebration because of the first noises, but when the first explosion happened I thought ‘something is going on,'” Ahmed, a 46-year-old businessman living in front of ‘Osama Compound,’ told EFE.

He went out onto the street, like many others, but could not see anything as the Pakistani authorities had cordoned off the area.

“People have forgotten bin Laden. They continue with their lives,” Ahmed said.

When asked by EFE about the terror group leader who lived on the premises, several passers-by expressed indifference towards the Saudi.

The secret operation by the US to terminate the al-Qaeda founder put Pakistan in a difficult position. The military then had to choose to either declare their incompetence or their complicity with the terrorist.

They chose the former, claiming to be unaware that the man behind the Sep.11 attack on the Twin Towers lived with his family a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s leading military academy.

Malik, a former Air Force personnel, argued that there was no complicity on Pakistan’s part and that bin Laden secretly managed to get into Abbottabad.

“It is not possible for an intelligence agency to check every house, every place,” said the former soldier and Abbottabad resident.

Others, such as 65-year-old Rahman, argued that the terrorist did not live in Abbottabad or even in Pakistan and that everything was a setup.

However, he admitted having seen from his home the two military helicopters with Navy Seals arrive at the compound.

“Osama was a big deal. Why did they not show photos or images?” Rahman asked.

A decade after bin Laden’s death, the hunt is on for his successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The US has repeatedly suggested that the Egyptian could be hidden somewhere near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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