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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Dec 2014

World

'Laden was reaching for AK-47 when he was shot'
Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times
Washington, July 08, 2013
First Published: 23:04 IST(8/7/2013)
Last Updated: 07:54 IST(9/7/2013)

Osama bin Laden was reaching for his weapons when he was shot by US Navy SEALs in his Abbottabad hideout, according to an account of the raid given by his family.

The al Qaeda leader had been living in that house with his family and two guards and their families since 2005, moving from nearby Haripur where they stayed for two years.

Bin Laden had been in Pakistan since at least 2002.

These new findings are contained in a report of the Abbottabad Commission that investigated bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and his death in a US raid on May 2, 2011.

The report, which examined 201 witnesses including bin Laden’s three widows and the widow of one of his guards, has not been made public officially yet.

Al Jazeera, a television news channel, released a copy of it on Monday, which had not been confirmed or challenged by Pakistani authorities till the filing of this report.

The Black Hawk helicopters carrying US SEALs had been far from stealthy while descending. The entire bin Laden family and the two guards and their families had woken up.

Amal, bin Laden’s youngest wife, moved to switch on the lights, but bin Laden stopped her.

“The Shaikh said American helicopters had arrived and they should all leave his room immediately,” the report said citing testimony given by survivors of the raid.

But no one moved. Maryam (one of bin Laden’s daughters) went to the balcony to check. “The Shaikh reached for his weapons,” the report said.

This has been one of the contentious portions about the raid in most accounts -- whether the world’s most dreaded terrorist had tried to fight back or simply caved in?

There was an AK-47 lying on a shelf, but he never reached it Amal told the commission she suddenly saw an American soldier on the landing outside the bedroom with his weapon trained on bin Laden.

“She saw a red beam of light but heard no sound.”

It was all over in 10 minutes, Sumayya, another of bin Laden’s daughter told the commission -- from the time they woke up to the sound of the choppers to her father’s killing.

Four others to die in the raid were bin Laden’s son Khalid, and the the al Qaeda chief’s two courier-guards Ibrahim al Kuwaiti and Abrar al Kuwaiti, and latter’s wife Bushra.

In other new details to emerge, given by the widows and other survivors, Laden would wear a cowboy hat on his walks in the compound to avoid detection from above.

CIA operatives watching the compound through satellites named the tall thin person walking around the compound, The Pacer, when they did not know for sure his identity.

Also, while evading the world’s most expansive manhunt, the al Qaeda leader had fathered two children from his youngest wife Amal -- during their stay in Haripur.

Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti’s widow Maryam told the commission she first saw the al Qaeda leader in Swat, Pakistan. He was just a “very tall, clean shaven Arab” to her not bin Laden. And Amal, who had travelled from Karachi with Maryam, was his wife.

On a trip to the local market the entire group including “the tall Arab” (she did’t know then that was bin Laden) was stopped by a policeman for speeding. But Ibrahim “very quickly” settled the matter with the policeman and they drove on.

It was here in Swat that Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, the September 11 mastermind, his wife and seven children stayed with bin Laden and his family for two weeks.

Muhammad, who was known to everyone there as “Hafeez”, was arrested in Karachi a month after. The bin Laden entourage  moved to Haripur in a few weeks.


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