Hit squad swooped on Bin Laden pre-dawn raid

Four helicopters swooped in early Monday and killed Osama bin Laden in a fiery American raid on his fortress-like compound in a Pakistani town that is home to three army regiments. His location raised pointed questions of whether Pakistani authorities knew the whereabouts of the world's most wanted man.

The al-Qa’ida chief was living in a house in the town of Abbottabad that a US official said was "custom built to hide someone of significance." Abbottabad is around 60 miles from the capital Islamabad, far from the remote mountain caves along the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal border where most intelligence assessments had put bin Laden in recent years.



The house was close to the Kakul Military Academy, an army run institution where top officers train and one of several military institutions in the town.



An American administration official said the compound was built in 2005 at the end of a narrow dirt road with "extraordinary" security measures. He said it had 12 to 18-feet walls topped with barbed wire with two security gates and no telephone or Internet service connected to it.



A Pakistan intelligence official said the property where bin Laden was staying was 3,000 square feet.



Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan's security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied this. Ties between the United States and Pakistan have hit a low point in recent months over the future of Afghanistan, and any hint of possible Pakistani collusion with bin Laden could hit them hard even amid the jubilation of getting American's No. 1 enemy.



One Pakistani official said the choppers took off from a Pakistani air base, suggesting some cooperation in the raid. President Barack Obama said Pakistan had provided some information leading to the raid, did not thank the country in his statement on bin Laden's death.



Pakistan's intelligence agency and the CIA have cooperated in joint raids before against al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan on several occasions since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. But US and Pakistani officials indicated that this mission was too important to let anyone know more than a few minutes in advance.



Pakistan's foreign office hailed the death as a breakthrough in the international campaign against militancy, and noted al-Qaida "had declared war on Pakistan" and killed thousands of Pakistani civilians and security officers.



It stressed that the operation to kill bin Laden was an American one, and did not mention any concerns that Pakistani officials may have been protecting bin Laden in some way. Domestically, the government may yet face criticism by political opponents and Islamist for allowing US forces to kill bin Laden on its soil.



Pakistani officials said a son of bin Laden and three other people were killed. Other unidentified males were taken by helicopter away from the scene, while four children and two woman were arrested and left in an ambulance, the official said.



A witness and a Pakistani official said bin Laden's guards opened fire from the roof of the compound in the small northwestern town of Abbottabad, and one of the choppers crashed. However US officials said no Americans were hurt in the operation. The sound of at least two explosions rocked Abbottabad as the fighting raged.



It was not known how long bin Laden had been in Abbottabad, which is less than half a days drive from the border region with Afghanistan.



Locals said large Landcruisers and other expensive cars were seen driving into the compound, which is in a regular middle-class neighborhood of dirt covered, litter-strewn roads and small shops. Cabbage and other vegetables are planted in empty plots in the neighborhood.



Salman Riaz, a film actor, said that five months ago he and a crew tried to do some filming next to the house, but were told to stop by two men who came out.



"They told me that this is haram (forbidden in Islam)," he said.



Abbottabad resident Mohammad Haroon Rasheed said the raid happened about 1:15 a.m. local time.



"I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast," he said. "In the morning when we went out to see what happened, some helicopter wreckage was lying in an open field."



Qasim Khan, 18, who lives in a house just across the compound, said he saw two Pakistani men going in and coming out of the house often in the past several years. One of them was relatively a fat man with a beard, he said.



"I never saw anybody else with the two men but, some kids sometime would accompany them. I never saw any foreigner."



Relations between Pakistan's main intelligence agency and the CIA had been very strained in recent months. A Pakistani official has said that joint operations had been stopped as a result, and that the agency was demanding the Americans cut down on drone strikes in the border area.



In late January, a senior Indonesian al-Qa’ida operative, Umar Patek, was arrested at another location in Abbottabad.



News of his arrest only broke in late March. A Pakistani intelligence official said its officers were led to the house where Patek was staying after they arrested an al-Qa’ida facilitator, Tahir Shahzad, who worked at the post office there.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones