02 May 2011

Better Late Than Never

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Osama bin Laden was residing in a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 80 miles north of Islamabad. The compound was located just north of a hospital for women and children and a movie theater and roughly 800 feet to the east of the Cantt Police Station.

Just short of a decade after the 9/11 attacks, the United States has brought Osama bin Laden to justice.

Bin Laden was found by tracking a courier identified by Guantanamo detainees, according to “a senior White House official.”

MSNBC:

After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “detainees gave us information on couriers. One courier in particular had our constant attention. Detainees gave us his nom de guerre, his pseudonym, and also identified this man as one of the few couriers trusted by bin Laden.”

In 2007, the U.S. learned the man’s name.

In 2009, “we identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother operated. They were very careful, reinforcing belief we were on the right track.”

In August 2010, “we found their home in Abbottabad,” not in a cave, not right along the Afghanistan border, but in an affluent suburb less than 40 miles from the capital.

“When we saw the compound, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound.”

The plot of land was roughly eight times larger than the other homes in the area. It was built in 2005 on the outskirts of town, but now some other homes are nearby.

“Physical security is extraordinary: 12 to 18 foot walls, walled areas, restricted access by two security gates.” The residents burn their trash, unlike their neighbors. There are no windows facing the road. One part of the compound has its own seven-foot privacy wall.

And unusual for a multi-million-dollar home: It has no telephone or Internet service.

This home, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded, was “custom built to hide someone of significance.”

Abbottabad, Pakistan, named for the 19th century British officer General Sir James Abbott, who pacified and governed the district 1849-1853, is described in Wikipedia as “well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments.”

American justice (and military operations) proceed rather slowly. The courier was identified in 2007, his area of operation ws identified in 2009, Osama’s compound was identified last August, and they were planning the assault since February. The president and the National Security Council Five pondered what to do in the course of five meetings since Mid-March, and President Obama only finally gave the go-ahead order last Friday, April 29th.

The raid was executed by a U.S. Joint Special Operations Command Special Mission Unit (SMU) from the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU — formerly known as Seal Team Six). The seal team unit arrived via two helicopters, one of which had mechanical difficulties and has been reportedly destroyed by US forces. Other US personnel operated as spotters on the ground, and a drone was deployed overhead just in case.

A firefight (yet to be described in detail) occurred in which Osama bin Ladin, one of his sons, two couriers, and a woman whom the ever-chivalrous Muslims attempted to use as a human shield were killed.

Amusingly, Sohaib Athar, a Pakistani who tweets as Really Virtual, essentially live blogged the attack on Twitter.

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