Hundreds of curious residents on Tuesday descended on the bullet-riddled villa that hid Osama bin Laden from the world, taking pictures and home videos.
Bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad had been kept under tight army control after the dramatic raid by US special forces.
But on Tuesday they left and some 100 extra policemen were deployed in the afternoon, as several hundred curious people from the area descended around the compound.
Although the compound remained firmly off limits to reporters, the police officer in charge Qamar Hayat told them what he had discovered inside. “There is no bunker, nor did I see any secret place where one could hide. There is no cellar,” he said. “The belongings of the inmates are intact,” he said.
Footage obtained by the US network ABC inside the house showed blood on the floor in one room and broken computers in another, stripped of their hard drives.
Hundreds of people, including women and children, gathered outside the house as dozens of young people staged a demo outside, mocking the US and shouting “Osama is alive!”
One protester even dressed up as the world’s “most-wanted” man. An AFP reporter estimated that at one point there were 500 people outside the house. “Osama is alive, here comes Osama!” joked the demonstrator, who had donned a white turban and hid his face with a cloth.
Children as young as four or five joined the spontaneous rally and witnesses said many came from across Abbottabad, on cars and motorcycles to see the compound.
Journalists were allowed up to the heavily fortified compound’s perimeter but were held back from going beyond its high walls. Lights had been installed at the back of the building to keep the area illuminated at night.
Hayat described some of the house interior, saying there were six bedrooms “and there was blood in two of the bedrooms”. “We have cleared the house from the inside. I don’t know when it will be open to the media,” he said.
Hamida and her three teenage daughters, dressed in jeans and colourful dresses, took pictures of each other in front of the gate. “We want to post it on Facebook to show our friends that we live near Bin Laden’s compound,” 14-year-old Hiba said. “I can’t believe Bin Laden lived in front of my house,” said Hamida.
One wall of the house, which was fronted by a large lawn, had collapsed, while local officials were seen sizing up the height of the remaining walls with a tape measure. Pink stickers had been stuck on two gates with scrawled signatures on them.
A large courtyard was abutted by a small gate leading off to private living quarters, with a smashed front door. The villa’s parking area was demolished and military footprints could still be seen in the adjoining maize and vegetable fields, where children searched for fragments of metal and plastic.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2011.