In Abbottabad

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Omar Waraich explores bin Laden’s last haunt:

The home where Bin Laden had been hiding since at least last summer is located in the Bilal Town neighborhood of Abbottabad. It is less than a kilometer away from Pakistan’s Military Academy at Kakul — the country’s equivalent of West Point Academy. “It’s a respectable middle class area,” says Azim Durrani, another student who heard the raid. “The people who live there are doctors and different kinds of professionals. They drive Corrolas and Hondas.” The morning after the raid, the army was keen to not allow anyone else to catch a glimpse. Within moments of President Obama’s speech, they had setup checkpoints athwart all nearby major roads and sealed the neighborhood itself. A Der Spiegel journalist who managed to forge his way through was arrested for one hour, his camera confiscated, and the images of the notorious compound wiped. ABC News managed to broadcast images from what appeared to be a bloody bedroom in the compound. (Watch President Obama’s announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death.)

The compound doesn’t quite fit the descriptions of a mansion, as some have labeled it. The walls are 12 feet high walls and about 13 inches thick — enough to shield the tall terrorist leader from public view. The property itself is spread over an area slightly smaller than an acre. The house is a great deal smaller, rising over two-storeys. In other ways, it was unremarkable but sometimes noticed. Muhammad Riaz, 34, a construction worker who lives in the neighborhood says that he had viewed it with some suspicion. Unlike other homes in the Thanda Chuha area of Bilal Town, he was unfamiliar with its occupants. “I know that it was owned by a Pashtun man, who had come from elsewhere, called Akbar,” Riaz says. “It’s just five minutes away from my house.” Like others, he denies ever glimpsing Bin Laden.

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