Authorities on Sunday continued tearing down the infamous compound of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden where he was hunted down by US commandos in a top-secret raid in May last year.
A private construction firm was hired to bulldoze the structure following the green light from the judicial commission investigating the circumstances that led to the US Navy SEAL raid, official sources told The Express Tribune.
“Workers are expected to pull down the building by 3am,” said an official source, adding that heavy machinery had been moved to Bilal Town, the neighbourhood next to Pakistan Military Academy where the structure is located.
Soon after a visit to the mansion by the Abbottabad commission members, the belongings of the Bin Laden family were moved to an undisclosed location in anticipation of its demolition.
Sources said that security forces, who were standing guard at the compound, handed its control to the civil administration before its demolition started at around 8.30pm on Saturday.
Witnesses said troops blocked access to the compound, brought heavy machinery and barred journalists from taking pictures or coming close to the site. As workers started demolishing the structure in the glare of floodlights, local residents were asked to remain indoors till the structure was razed.
The triple-storey house, built over an area of 38,000 square feet and worth Rs85 million, has been under the control of the security forces and police since the May 2011 raid.
Two months ago, the authorities had detained the Danish ambassador, his wife and their security officer for visiting the area. During the last 10 months, more than eight Pakistani and foreign journalists were also detained for taking photographs of the compound.
“They should have razed it much earlier to spare us frequent questioning and surveillance,” said local resident Iqbal.
“The area people will now heave a sigh of relief,” added Tariq, another resident of Bilal Town. “At least the Bin Laden chapter is closed for us now.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2012.