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His hideout not a cave but $1-million mansion

US forces finally found al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not in a mountain cave on Afghanistan’s border, but with his youngest wife in a million-dollar compound in a summer resort just over an hour’s drive from Pakistan capital, US officials said.

world Updated: May 03, 2011 01:00 IST

US forces finally found al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden not in a mountain cave on Afghanistan’s border, but with his youngest wife in a million-dollar compound in a summer resort just over an hour’s drive from Pakistan capital, US officials said.

A small US team conducted a helicopter raid on the compound early on Monday. After 40 minutes of fighting, Bin Laden and an adult son, one unidentified woman and two men were dead.

US forces were led to the fortress-like three-storey building after more than four years of tracking one of Bin Laden's most trusted couriers, identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Authorities found in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building, officials said. The courier and his brother were among those killed in the raid.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw: an extraordinarily unique compound,” a senior administration official said.

The home is in Abbottabad, a town about 60km north of Islamabad, that is relatively affluent and home to many retired members of Pakistan's military. It was a far cry from the popular notion of Bin Laden hiding in some mountain cave on the rugged and inaccessible Afghan-Pakistan border.

The building, about eight times the size of nearby houses, sat on a large plot of land that was relatively secluded when it was built in 2005.

Intense security measures included 12- to 18-foot outer walls topped with barbed wire and internal walls that sectioned off different parts of the compound, officials said.

Two security gates restricted access, and residents burned their trash rather than leaving it for collection, officials said.

Few windows of the three-storey home faced the outside of the compound, and a terrace had a seven-foot privacy wall, officials said.

“It is also noteworthy that the property is valued at approximately $1 million (R4.3 crore) but has no telephone or internet service connected to it,” an administration official said.

“The brothers had no explainable source of wealth.”

US analysts realised that a third family lived there in addition to the two brothers, and the age and makeup of the third family matched those of the relatives — including his youngest wife — they believed would be living with Bin Laden.

“Everything we saw, the extremely elaborate operational security, the brothers' background and their behaviour and the location of the compound itself was perfectly consistent with what our experts expected Bin Laden's hide-out to look like,” another Obama administration official said.

Abbottabad is a popular summer resort, located in a valley surrounded by green hills near PoK.