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Testimony from the locals indicates there was a lot of talk about the site. It was known as “Waziristan Mansion” and anyone who got too close or leaned on the security wall was told to distance themselves. If a football came onto the land, kids were not allowed to get it and were instead paid two or three dollars. Locals say vehicles from the compound regularly went to the tribal areas and the women living there were noticeable because of their black burqas; an unusual attire in this community of more moderate Hazara Muslims. One woman who delivered polio vaccine was immediately told to leave after she asked about the expensive SUVs parked there.
“People were skeptical in this neighborhood about this place and these guys. They used to gossip…People would complain that even with such a big house they didn’t invite the poor or distribute charity,” a farmer in the city said.
One local said, “A friend told me that some tall, bearded men lived in the house who said they had come to Abbottabad from Peshawar some years ago due to some enmity.” This lines up with what al-Libbi said.
Two brothers that lived at the site had some interaction with the community. One shopkeeper said they “always asked questions about what was happening locally and whether there had been strange visitors to the area.” The site itself and this type of activity was so suspicious that a rumor went around that the individual living there was the nephew of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who was killed in a 2009 drone strike. Apparently, the locals did suspect someone of high importance in the terrorist world was living there but did not question whether it was Bin Laden.
It needs to be asked why satellites did not identify the compound before August as a likely hiding spot for a High Value Target that could be Bin Laden. Based on what the locals are saying, it seems that it should have been relatively easy for a covert operative in the area or a human intelligence source to hear talk about the site that would have set off alarms. Between the site’s physical features and the talk of the locals, not much more evidence could realistically be desired.
The killing of Osama Bin Laden is a massive success. That it happened in 2011 at a massive site obviously designed to protect a High Value Target in a city previously identified by al-Libbi as a haven for top Al-Qaeda members is not.
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