Special to Al Arabiya, May 4, 2011
Senior Pakistani security officials said Osama bin Laden’s daughter had confirmed her father was captured alive and shot dead by the US Special Forces during the first few minutes of the operation carried out at the huge compound in Bilal Town, Abbottabad.
Besides recovering four bullet-riddled bodies from the compound, Pakistani security agencies also arrested two women and six children, aged between 2 and 12 years, after American forces flew toward Afghanistan. Some reports suggest 16 people, including women and children, were arrested from the house, most of them Arab nationals.
A Pakistani security source told Al Arabiya that Bin Laden family members had been transported to Rawalpindi, which is near Islamabad. He added, "They are now under treatment in the military hospital of Rawalpindi, where they have been transported in an helicopter." A source told Al Arabiya that Bin Laden’s wife had been injured either in her leg or her shoulder.
He added that the members of the household were children and Bin Laden’s wife, in addition to a Yemeni woman. He added that the woman might be the personal doctor of the family. Bin Laden was known to be afflicted with renal failure. He had reportedly received treatment in Hyderabad, India, before the 9/11 attacks.
Sources speculated that US Forces could not arrest these family members because there weren’t enough places for them in the helicopter, after they lost another chopper during the operation.
About the slain woman: officials said she could either be Bin Laden’s wife or a close family member since she offered to sacrifice her life for him. "As per our information, she shielded Bin Laden during the operation and was killed by American commandos," an official said.
The US Special Forces only took two bodies with them in the military chopper; one is said to be Bin Laden’s and the other his son’s. By the time Pakistani security agencies and soldiers arrived at the spot, the US commandos were flying over the mountains in the Pakistani tribal belt, well on their way to Afghanistan.
Sources said one of the two women taken into custody from the compound by Pakistani forces was one of Osama bin Laden’s several wives.
"She is Yemeni and became unconscious during the operation," said an official. Pleading anonymity, he said the woman was provided necessary medical aid till she became conscious.
"During preliminary investigations, the lady said they moved to the Abbottabad house five to six months ago," the Pakistani official said, adding that she did not provide further information about bin Laden or his shifting to the house.
The official said a 12-year-old daughter of bin Laden was among the six children rescued from the three-storey compound.
The daughter has reportedly told her Pakistani investigators that the US forces captured her father alive but shot him dead in front of family members.
According to sources, Bin Laden was staying on the ground floor of the house and was dragged on the floor to the helicopter after being shot dead by US commandos.
There were conflicting reports about the second person the US forces took along with them. Some Pakistani officials say it was one of Bin Laden’s sons injured by the US commandos and thrown onto a separate military chopper; others say he was killed in the operation and it was only his dead body that they took along.
The officials say not all children rescued from the house belonged to the al-Qaeda leader. All were being kept at a safe place. The US has not been given access to the detained women and children, the officials claimed. About the second woman, many officials feel she could be a close relative of Osama or his servant.
Similarly, according to information Pakistani officials collected from detained persons, Osama was neither armed nor did inmates at the compound fire at the US choppers or commandos.
"Not a single bullet was fired from the compound at the US forces and their choppers. Their chopper developed some technical fault and crashed and the wreckage was left on the spot," a well-informed official explained.
Meanwhile, Pakistani security forces maintained a cordon around the compound and its surrounding areas and did not allow the media access to the area until the remaining wreckage of the US military chopper was removed. Some media were given access to the spot but no one was allowed to enter the compound.
The Pakistan Army has sealed two main entrances of the house and deployed military and police for its protection.
A sizeable number of national and international journalists have arrived in Abbottabad to cover the extraordinary story. Before opening the area to the media, Pakistani soldiers shifted two buffaloes, a cow and around 150 hens from the compound to an unknown location.
Security officials said they did not recover any arms and explosives during their detailed search of the compound on Monday and Tuesday. Also, they said, it was a simple house comprising 13 rooms, six on the ground floor and the remaining on the first and second floors.
"There was no bunker or tunnel inside the house and that’s why I don’t understand why the world’s most wanted man would have decided to live here," a senior official said.
He said two brothers, Arshad Khan and Tariq Khan, owned the house. Both belonged to Tangi area in Charsadda district. Officials said they had no information about the two brothers and their business.
According to a neighbor, the dwellers of the compound never mixed with anyone.
"It was a very reserved family and never attended any wedding or funeral ceremony in the area," said Qari Mastana Khan of Bilal Town. "But they were kindhearted and would provide clean drinking water and food to poor neighbors. During the holy month of Ramadan, they invited us for Iftar dinner at their house and served us delicious food. Arshad Khan had three kids and his brother Tariq four," Khan added.
Another interesting aspect, which the residents shared about the house and its inmates, was the strict behavior of the family, who in the last six years, had never allowed women of the neighborhood to enter their house or permitted their own ladies to visit neighbors. Also, children playing in the streets and nearby fields were never allowed into the compound, not even when their balls inadvertently went across.
"Usually, when their ball falls past the wall of a house, the children just go there and pick it up but they were never allowed into this particular house. Whenever their ball fell there and the children went to retrieve it, whoever opened the door gave them money to buy a new ball instead of allowing them to enter and search for their ball," said an elder of the area, Mohammad Fayaz.
He said all these details made him suspicious but were not enough to make him believe the world’s most wanted man was hiding in his neighborhood.
(Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Islamabad relayed this article.)