Abdul Samad, 24, is still in a state of shock. He could never have imagined that the world’s most wanted man, with a head money of $25 million, was living right next door.
He lives just a few yards away from the compound where Osama bin Laden had been hiding for the past many months.
“It was a horrific night. We were all woken up in the middle of the night by the thunderous noise of helicopters and gunshots,” Abdul Samad said, recalling the time US’ forces raided his neighbourhood.
“We came out to see what exactly happened. Our initial reaction was that some terrorist attack might have occurred,” he told The Express Tribune. But then we were asked to go back to our homes by uniformed men, who were speaking Pashtu, he added.
The compound, just a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, is spread over an area of 3,000 square yards and has 12-foot high boundary walls.
Located at the end of a dirt road, it has now been sealed by security officials. The bullet-riddled walls indicate the intensity and ferocity of the operation.
Locals of the area, however, had little idea about the occupants of the compound.
“We do not know who lives here. The residents of this house had never been in contact with us,” said Habibur Rehman, who lives in the same street where Bin Laden lived.
“We rarely saw residents of this house. There was one clean shaven-man, who used to take the children out to a nearby shop. The man seemed to be Afghan,” he added.
Some locals pointed fingers at the authorities for failing to keep an eye on the building, which has a unique structure given the other housing facilities in the town.
“The construction of high walls with barbed wires is not allowed by the Cantonment Board,” said another resident. “This house is built in complete violation of the building codes of the area. We are not allowed to raise our boundary wall beyond a certain level, so how was this building overlooked?” he said.
Speaking fluent English, another local Muhammad Imran said he had little doubt that the man living behind the high walls was indeed Osama bin Laden.
“It is a big relief that he has gone, but the fact that he was shot dead here in Abbottabad is shameful for all of us,” he lamented.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2011.