News Middle East

Monday 18 December 2017

Osama bin Laden's Pakistan house back on the market

NO-one took much notice of the two brothers who moved their families into the smart house at the end of the track.

Their pickup and minivan came and went, but nothing was glimpsed of the wives and children living behind the 10-foot wall.

But eight years later a shocking question is emerging: Could Osama bin Laden have lived in the four-bedroom house in Haripur, a bustling town just over 20 miles north of the capital Islamabad.

Intelligence sources, local testimony and research by a retired army officer suggest the two-storey villa is a missing link in the story of how bin Laden, his three wives, children and grandchildren eventually arrived in the town of Abbottabad, where they were discovered last year.

Umar Hayat, a neighbour, said he was stunned. He remembered two brothers living in the house, members of the Pashtun tribe from the north-west of the country.

"I am astonished. This is new to me," he said. "But when I think about it I remember there were Pathans living there at one time, and they kept their gate shut which was unusual." The world's most wanted man was killed on May 2. He was traced when his courier made a call to a telephone that was under surveillance leading the CIA to the house where he had hidden "in plain sight" for six years.

Painstaking research by Brigadier Shaukat Qadir, who interviewed Pakistani intelligence officers and an al-Qaedaleader, suggests the courier and his brother were the two Pashtun men who rented the house in Haripur as they waited for their bespoke home in nearby Abbottabad to be built.

"It's not very secluded but at this time he must have thought no one was looking for him in this sort of area. Anyway it was only temporary and after seven or eight months they moved on," he said.

They paid about £100 per month for the house, according to its owner, Qasi Anis Ur-Rehman.

"When I visited I only went into the sitting room, no further," he said. "I didn't think that was odd because it is the custom when there are women somewhere else in the house." He said Save the Children rented it after the Pashtun brothers left.

The house stands empty today. It is back on the rental market for about £150.

Inside its high walls, an overgrown lawn is edged by rose bushes with bright pink blooms.

A stout wooden door opens into a spacious family room. Beyond it a kitchen has been stripped of appliances. Its worktops stand stained, scratched and unused.

Cobwebs hang from ceiling fans in a downstairs bedroom and a dining room.

Three bright, airy bedrooms and a split-level terrace, half surrounded by a wall to protect the privacy of residents, fill the second floor.

With en suite bathrooms, wide bay windows and scuffed marble flooring this is the sort of house that only the most affluent of Haripur residents could afford.

Brigadier Shaukat Qadir said he had been taken to the house by security officials investigating bin Laden's movements through Pakistan as he evaded capture.

He has pieced together the family's travels from the testimony of Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, bin Laden's youngest wife.

She told interrogators they frequently moved through the tribal regions before arriving in Shangla, a town in the Swat Valley about 80 miles north-west of Islamabad, in 2004.

Later that year they apparently arrived at to the house in Haripur before arriving in Abbottabad in 2005.

Six years later the world's biggest manhunt came to an end when US Navy Seals swooped in the dead of night, killing bin Laden, one of his sons, as well as the courier and his brother.

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