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Two years later, Osama's neighbours plead for privacy

Two years after US commandos killed al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, his neighbours in Abbottabad are fed up with questions from the media and other people about the incident, saying they want to be left alone.

Bin Laden, who was for a long time hunted by the US, was killed in a coordinated aerial and ground assault by US Navy SEALS on May 2, 2011.

Samiaullah (19), one of Osama’s neighbours in Abbottabad, said that he had been interviewed by hundreds of media persons and other people interested about the assault.


Reduced to rubble: A year after Osama bin Laden was killed, the home he lived in was demolished by authorities who feared that it would be converted into a shrine or tourist spot. File Pics

“It made our life uneasy and we have lost our peace of mind,” he said. “The media kept on asking us the same questions about bin Laden but we never saw him,” Samiaullah, who goes by one name, said, adding that this has affected his studies in college.

Zain Muhammad (84), who was the closest neighbour of bin Laden, said that the killing of bin Laden left him with a bad experience. He said after the incident, he and his son, along with three of his neighbours, were detained for 17 days by security forces but they were never charged with any crime.

“It was the darkest moment in our lives,” Zain said.

The past
Samiullah said that it was late at night when they heard sounds of exchange of fire and then a big fire erupted in the compound after a huge blast.

“Everything happened so fast. Nobody knew what was happening,” he recalled. It was only the next morning when we learned from television reports that bin Laden was killed, Samiullah said.

Zain was more vivid in his description of the incident. He said that it was after midnight when he saw helicopters hovering above the compound from where he saw soldiers jumping. Then the firing started which was followed by a loud blast. When the firing stopped, Zain said that he saw the soldiers who hurriedly left aboard their helicopters.

Like some Pakistanis, Zain, however, until now refused to believe that it was bin Laden that the US soldiers killed. “We don’t know whether bin Laden was here or not. All we know was that only two Pakistani brothers lived inside the compound with their families,” Zain said.

A majority of people in the area said that they did not know much about bin Laden or they did not like to comment about him. “We only saw his picture on TV. We never saw him here in person,” they said.

Muhammad Latif, a retired schoolteacher, spoke cautiously. “I know that bin Laden was the owner of a big construction company. He was well loved by the Muslims but he had some differences with the western countries and America,” Latif said.

After two years, the spot in Abbottabad where Osama’s compound used to stand and where he spent around five years before he was killed has also lost its fascination and attraction for local people.

Did you know?
The tourism department of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa proposed the building of an amusement park in the area 
 

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