The Operation: What exactly happened in Abbottabad

Published: May 3, 2011
Soldiers remove the wreckage of a helicopter covered with it tarpaulin from a compound, where locals reported a firefight took place overnight in Abbotabad, located in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province May 2, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

Soldiers remove the wreckage of a helicopter covered with it tarpaulin from a compound, where locals reported a firefight took place overnight in Abbotabad, located in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province May 2, 2011. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: As the biggest manhunt in history reached its gory conclusion in the early hours of Monday, details of the US special forces’ highly secretive operation in Abbottabad started trickling in on Monday.

Though civil and military officials are tight-lipped over the conduct of the operation, it transpired that the US Navy SEALs who had set out on the “kill bin Laden operation” on board two helicopters had actually flown from a nearby airbase at Tarbela.

“A US military C-130 transport plane, equipped with hi-tech intelligence gadgets, also flew from the same base to support the highly secretive operation,” a source told The Express Tribune.  And former chief of Pakistan’s top spy agency ISI also endorsed the information. “A large number of US troops, along with their war machine, have been maintaining presence at Tarbela since long,” said Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Gul.

For over two hours the helicopters and the C-130 aircraft hovered over the palatial mansion where bin Laden was hiding before launching the assault, witnesses told The Express Tribune.

The compound in Bilal Town sits virtually adjacent to the grounds of the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul. And in an ironic twist, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had visited the PMA late last month, where he proclaimed that Pakistan had broken the back of the forces of terrorism.

Witnesses said that the C-130 aircraft flew over the area for over five hours even while the mission was accomplished. Officials said that Pakistan’s air defence system had caught the C-130 on their radars albeit the sophisticated plane had the facility to jam all defence communication system including radars.

“Due to disorientation on the part of the pilots, darkness and unfamiliar mountainous terrain, one of the choppers crashed in the compound during the operation,” a senior official said requesting anonymity.

Ground troops then stormed the compound where Bin Laden was living along with his family and some trusted aides. US counter-terrorism official John Brennan told the media in Washington that bin Laden used his wife as human shield. “There was family at that compound, and there was a female who was, in fact, in the line of fire that reportedly was used as a shield to shield bin Laden from the incoming fire,” Brennan said.

The senior official told The Express Tribune that the US Navy SEALs also retrieved the bodies of bin Laden and his associates and of those US troops killed in the operation.

A first senior administration officer of the White House told the media in Washington that a small team of US Navy SEALs carried out the operation.

But, at least two senior military officials in Pakistan disagreed. They, instead, said it was not possible for a “small team” of US forces to carry out such an operation against the most dangerous terrorist.

Though President Barack Obama has announced the death of bin Laden, some analysts in Pakistan are still sceptical about the veracity of Obama’s claim. Pakistan’s former ambassador in Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand and tribal affairs expert Brigadier (retd) Mehmood Shah said that the United States should have offered the world some proof, at least pictures of his body, which US officials say, has been buried in the Arabian Sea since bin Laden’s home country Saudi Arabia had refused to accept his remains.

In Washington US lawmakers said that photographs of Bin Laden’s corpse may have to be released to smother any effort to claim he survived the raid.

“It may be necessary to release the pictures – as gruesome as they undoubtedly will be, because he’s been shot in the head – to quell any doubts that this somehow is a ruse that the American government has carried out,” said Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman.

Lt-Gen Gul, however, refuses to accept that Bin Laden was killed in Sunday night’s operation. He said that the al Qaeda kingpin had died years ago.

Endorsing Gul’s claim some analysts believe the “drama” was staged to provide justification for an honourable exit for the US-led coalition troops from Afghanistan where they have been bogged down in a fight against a resilient Taliban insurgency.

Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan according to a schedule announced by President Obama is essential as the support for the war was dwindling among the Americans.  “It would have been a source of serious embarrassment for the US to exit Afghanistan without killing Bin Laden, who had allegedly masterminded the 9/11 attacks on the United States,” said one analyst.

With additional input from Wires

Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2011.


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Reader Comments (22)

  • Hedgefunder
    May 3, 2011 - 6:51PM

    What really happened , was that Uncle sam came and took out the no1, and left, and than called your lot to advice you of their actions!!!!!!!
    There is a trust deficit between your Army/ISI and USA,hence they decided to go it alone!!!!
    It has taken long time for your chaps to even make a comment!!!
    I notice that ISPR has still not commented on the events of yesterday!!!!!!Recommend

  • Hamid Ahmed
    May 3, 2011 - 7:06PM

    How long our media will be paying attention to folks like Hamid Gul?
    Don’t we know who these people are? and what their track record is?
    We need to stop paying attention to these self serving liars.Recommend

  • laughing
    May 3, 2011 - 8:23PM

    Bin Laden was killed in tora bora bombing in 2001. He was a dialysis patient also and would not have survived for another 10 years. This drama in abottabad was staged to justify US withdrawal from afghanistan. It would have been very embarrassing for USA to leave afghanistan without showing the world that it had completed its mission of getting Osama.
    There is no concrete evidence showing video or pictures of Osama’s face or his body. CIA could have killed any other alqaeda person in abottabad and called him osama. The other thing that is very disturbing is US claiming that his body was dumped in the sea. This happened in less than 5 hours after the action was started. So CIA took 40 minutes to kill him, and then 4 hours to take him from abottabad to afghanistan, do his dna test, then take him to USS Vinson in arabian sea, wash his body, did the so-called last burial rights (yeah right), and then dumped him in the sea. How ridiculous! Even a bollywood movie would have less BS than this.

    The reality is that Osama was killed in 2001 and this drama was staged by USA to justify its withdrawal from afghanistan. Understand the big game! Never believe what USA and CIA tells us. Recommend

  • John
    May 3, 2011 - 8:34PM

    Hamid Gul did his level best and now he has an egg on his face. More conspiracy theories and if PAK people still believe on these nonsense, then there is no rescue.

    PAK was caught with pants down through breach of its air space from Afghanistan, and now all this damage control from PAK side. PAK was not informed until after the team returned to Afghanistan.

    In case some one is really interested: The cooperation Obama and Clinton were referring was PAK army cooperation in apprehending one of the OBL couriers a few years back which eventually led to Abbottabad. Not in this operation. Any suggestion that PAK cooperated in Abbottabad operation is PAK’s new damage control spin.

    Surprised that no reporter is specifically asking this question. (ET moderator now censors my comment, hmmmmm!)Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    May 3, 2011 - 10:04PM

    Get a real bit real mate !! This is not a Dream!!! Its Real, for once come out of that little coccoon that you live in!! Trust Me , it Helps!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Recommend

  • khurram kaleem
    May 3, 2011 - 11:39PM

    May be the american had brought osama alive to abotabad and then shot him along with suspected al qaeda occupant of the house and fired at one of their own helicopter to mark it as combat operation.

    whatever is true but i think CIA should hire a bollywood director to make “war on terror ” sound better than fiction.Recommend

  • Umar
    May 4, 2011 - 12:55AM

    We got him ,we dumped his body in the sea. We found him in Pakistan, same way we found WMDs in Iraq and Santa Claus is real. I am telling you it is the truth. you must beleive it now. Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    May 4, 2011 - 11:20AM

    What happened in Abbotabad :
    1. OBL in house – true
    2. US seals raid the house – true
    3. OBL used son and wife as human shields – False
    4. Seals killed OBL – False
    5. Chracter profiling of OBL tells us he is not the one who will hide behind women or be caught alive by his enemies.

    More plausiable : OBL either committed suicide (Most likely) or was killed by his bodyguards. Seals must have found him dead in his room. Since he must have killed himself, his head would have been pulp. That may be the reason teh US admn. is not releasing the ghastly pics. Hillary Clinton’s expression in the situation room is most likely her reaction on seeing the dead body.
    Now US admn is finding someone who is an expert on morphing to create OBL pic to suit their version of events.Recommend

  • Naramdil
    May 4, 2011 - 2:17PM

    Stop laughing….you pro-Indian think tank contributor…..
    USA used Pakistan in 1980s to counter Military strength of Russia and successfully did that in 1989…
    Now USA is using India to bring down financila might of China and to counter it …..time will tell if it will be a success story or not…..because battles are won on ground not in markets…..
    anyway what Pak did in 1980s…it is paying the price for that after two decades…so India must also be ready for similar “fruits” within a decade or so………
    stop laughing and start worrying for a chaos ridden, systematically destabilized India within next decade or so….
    in the mean time we pray for peace and sanctity in world without any further terrorism or war on terror….(because both terror and war on terror have been thrust upon pakistan)…..Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    May 4, 2011 - 3:25PM

    For your information, US did use Pakistan in the 80’s against the old soviet empire! But Pakistan was glad to be party to that, due to financial benefits and Arms provided by the US at the time!! It was the good old days for lot of people in Pakistan at the time !! Money was flowing in like water, no shortage!!! They were further glad to accept Saudi Petro Dollors too! But these came at a price, of spreading their form of Islam too!!!
    In regards to US using India against China!! Well i really do not think so! Had that been the case, then the Indians would not be Buying Euro Fighters and dumping US fighters in their purchase program!!! Which is being classed as one of the biggest deals ever!!
    The relationship between US and India is actually far more based on Level Playing Field, than their Relationship with Pakistan!!!!
    Yes you are quite correct to point out that the current mess in Pakistan at present is solely due to its policies and path it chose to follow couple of decades ago!!
    What does that tell you??? That your country’s leaders have always lacked vision and never really considered the consequences of their actions!!!
    just as they are doing in the present day!Recommend

  • Operations
    May 4, 2011 - 4:11PM

    Attention AL Zawahiri: Please relocate your family,small children & woman! My team will promise you this “Martyr”. My team has decided not to wait for any anouncement of advancement to head the AQ Terror Network.Osama’s demise was for the 3000 people that where massacred in NY & Washington & beyond!! Your demise will be for the for all the,women,men & children the terror network alQeada has killed in Pakistan,Afghanastan & beyond. After my teams are done with you…Omar is next!! Recommend

  • Thunder Striker
    May 5, 2011 - 7:12AM


    Boy you are one great paid blogger, very dedciated mouth peice of the Empire. All you Western propaganda mouth pieces want to do your best to sell Obama’s story and flocking like vultures on a Pakistan site which atleast allows all sides to express their thoughts not like your Empire controlled stations like FOX, CNBC, Times of India….Recommend

  • Amer Khan
    May 5, 2011 - 1:21PM

    i think this all drama was created because of the ‘timings’ – both cia and isi knew all along that he was a frequent visitor to this place and would also live here for long. Both were waiting for the ‘right timings’, both are involved in the ‘action’ – this time around what US and Pak have agreed to is that; they will kill OBL and will let Pak prevail in Afghanistan after the US exit… so this is the end game that both are playing. you and me are ‘just the public’ and all this is done for ‘our consumption’ only and the real story will never come out just like 9/11Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    May 5, 2011 - 1:39PM

    For your informayion, I am no one’s mouthpiece as you suggest, but an individual who has an ability to call it as i see it, there is no problem calling spade a spade!!!And fortunately i am not too often wrong!!!!Recommend

  • SaudiRules
    May 5, 2011 - 5:33PM

    This is a bogus article! Why?
    “Witnesses said that the C-130 aircraft flew over the area for over five hours even while the mission was accomplished. …..”

    If people on the ground, the “witness” can pin point the US C-130 in dark night of no moon(which is absurd anyway), how can the Abottabad full of Army personals can not? Or better yet why not OBL and his guards?

    Even if c-130 was was a PAF flight dispatched after the horses (navy seals) had left the stable! Recommend

  • Khurdra
    May 5, 2011 - 10:11PM

    here goes the self centred selfish self praising man…
    how can you claim that “And fortunately i am not too often wrong!!!!”
    you are totally wrong here in claiming that you are mostly right…
    all the time writing in an anti Pakistan tone does not make you right…..!!!
    even if you think so….world is free to deem you right or wrong and we are not forced to bow in front of your anti Pak comments……..
    there is a saying that “self praise is no recommendation”
    enough said ….if you are wise enough then you will understand….Recommend

  • Ajay
    May 6, 2011 - 9:28AM

    also never believe what Pakistan says.
    I also believe what you are sayingRecommend

  • Ajay
    May 6, 2011 - 9:33AM

    India will never be used like Pkaistan was by USA, even if USA tries, because India is driven by a different set of value systems than Pakistan. India’s attitude and behavior is quite different from Pakistan which it prevents it from getting into any kinds of trouble. That attitude actually gets it respect in the global world inspite of its poverty.Recommend

  • Ajay
    May 6, 2011 - 9:42AM

    @Amer Khan:
    It will b einteresting to see how things shape up with time.
    Thsi operation looks very dubious in light of past events and utterances and post-OBL follow up action and utterances.

    So there are 2 possibilities:

    1)Pakistan is very tight with US and all this was drama with Pakistani army fully involved in the plot. Ibama wins in all ways- elections, withdrawal justification, economy shore up. Pakistan wins- IMF releases funds that it had stalled pending Kayanis cooperation, Miliband had promised funds ofcourse pending ‘some’ outcomes.


    2)Pakistan US relationship was coming to a head. Pakistani was already sugesting Karzai to ditch US and go with China. The war on terror was not movin in any directio without cleaniung up the terrorists hideouts. US saw that th eonly way Pakistan performs is with threats. So now it has all the justifications- Army hiding OBL alll this time; they can even injectany amount of evidence in seized hard disks to implicate any leader in Pakistan- mostly Kayani or Pasha. US needs to secure the Baluchistan area for more than one reason- one of them being secure transport sector, 2nd being minerals and poil, 3rd- friendship with Balochis and breaking Pakistan. So this OBL incident gives it justification to have boots inside Pakistan ro summon NATO or UN forces. It may now wait for one incident inside US to link it to Paksitan.

    So time will tell- what it is- A or B !!Recommend

  • USA
    May 9, 2011 - 9:25PM

    Believe it or we will stop your aid…Recommend

  • May 10, 2011 - 1:01PM

    hmm true story maybeRecommend

  • saqib
    May 23, 2011 - 12:54AM

    Pakistan is not a country like Afghanistan, Iraq, lib nan, Pakistan is a country with atomic power no mater what respected Obama thinks and plan but he can never win’s Pakistan with a war. the only way to cover it is politics. as Pakistani leaders are corrupted America leads when this govt will be changed and our leader IMRAN KHAN will come America will sit in his boundaries automatically. INDIA is currently growing in good way if the rate continue it can be the super power and same is with china and Russia, American want to sit on their head to keep the power in their hands. first he tried by creating war between Pakistan and India and now directly interfering in Afghanistan trying to week Pakistan and come a head Recommend

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