Neighbours tell of life near Osama hideaway

THOSE who lived near Osama bin Laden’s final hideaway said the terror chief and his family rarely strayed from the house, and most of the neighbours were not aware foreigners were living there.

One resident in Abbottabad, Sher Mohammed Khan, claimed his sister went to the house to administer a polio vaccination as part of a government-backed drive.

When she remarked on all the expensive SUVs inside the compound, a man immediately asked her to leave, but not before taking the vaccine from her to apparently administer to the children inside.

Khurshid Bibi, in her 70s, said one man living in the compound had given her a lift to the market in the rain.

She said her grandchildren played with the kids in the house and the people in the compound gave them rabbits as a gift.

But the occupants also attracted criticism.

“People were sceptical in this neighbourhood about this place and these guys. They used to gossip, say they were smugglers or drug dealers. People would complain that even with such a big house they didn’t invite the poor or distribute charity,” said Mashood Khan, a 45-year-old farmer.

Meanwhile, dozens of Pakistani youths demonstrated outside the compound, mocking the US and shouting “Osama is alive”.

One protester dressed up as the world’s most-wanted man, who was killed in a helicopter raid by US commandos. “Osama is alive, here comes Osama,” he exclaimed jokingly, donning a white turban and hiding his face with a cloth.

Some children as young as four or five joined the spontaneous rally, which was full of laughter and held alongside a heavy police contingent guarding the scene of the operation.

Another in the group, wearing a black turban similar to that sported by the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar, suggested the raid had been faked.

“Long live Osama, here come Mullar Omar and Osama,” he proclaimed.

Conspiracy theories, propped up by distrust of the US, have spread quickly among residents in the quiet town of Abbottabad after the news emerged of bin Laden’s death on their doorstep.

“We are really surprised about how this is possible,” said Mohammad Anwar, another teenager at the gathering.

The city of Abbottabad itself is known not for any connections to Islamic militants but for its mountain breezes, well-kept avenues and educational institutions, including Pakistan’s most renowned academy for military officers.


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