Feb 25, 2012 No Comments ›› Angelia
Pakistan authorities on Saturday night demolished the three-story house in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden lived for years and died last May during a raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in an apparent bid to stop it becoming a tourist site or shrine for al Qaeda supporters.
An Abbottabad resident said mechanized backhoes working under floodlight completed the demolition shortly before midnight.
After the raid that killed bin Laden, Pakistan was left with a choice of whether to demolish the house or to manage it as a tourist attraction.
By deciding to demolish it, Pakistan authorities have followed a course taken by Germany, which for years did not mark Adolf Hitler’s bunker after his death to avoid it attracting neo-Nazis.
Immediately after the midnight raid that killed bin Laden, hundreds of local tourists came to look at the house in Abbottabad, a pleasant town ringed by Himalayan foothills about 30 miles northeast of Islamabad, and to collect parts of the downed U.S. Black Hawk that crashed during the sortie.
But soon afterward, Pakistan’s military intelligence posted operatives in the area around the clock to stop journalists and tourists from getting close to the house.
The compound, which was largely hidden behind a large perimeter wall, was an embarrassment for the Pakistan government. It was located in an area of similar houses, bounded by fields of rice and other crops, only a few miles from Pakistan’s premier military academy and in a garrison town thick with retired military personnel.
The location of the house raised questions among U.S. officials about how bin Laden was able to live there for five years without raising suspicions. Until now, however, the U.S. has stated it has found no evidence that Pakistan’s military or government helped shelter the former al Qaeda leader.
Pakistan’s military was humiliated by the unilateral U.S. raid on its territory, of which it was given no forewarning. The army’s leaders perhaps also saw the house as an unwanted reminder of an event which hurt its image with many Pakistanis.
Immediately after the raid, local officials were split on what to do with the house. Some local government officials said they hoped it would become a permanent attraction and help bring more tourists through the town, which relies largely on a large military presence to drive its economy. Other locals at the time said it should be destroyed to end any association between Abbottabad and bin Laden.
While opinion polls show most Pakistanis are now opposed to al Qaeda, which in recent years has launched a number of strikes against Pakistan government, military and civilian targets, some people in Pakistan still admire bin Laden for his role in fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and for attacking the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
In the end, the decision to demolish the house was likely taken by Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence directorate military spy agency.
The house legally belonged to a Pakistani man who worked as bin Laden’s courier and was killed along with his brother in the raid.
Local land records showed a man believed to be the courier purchased land for the house from four sellers for a total of around $50,000 in 2004 and 2005.
Local property dealers valued the compound, which included a three-story whitewashed house with a garden and a large connected area for grazing animals, at around $300,000.
Perhaps in the future, Pakistan officials will mark the site of the house with a plaque so it is not lost to history.
For more than 60 years, German authorities kept the exact location of the bunker in Berlin where Hitler committed suicide in 1945 concealed from the public. But in 2006, before an influx of tourists for the soccer World Cup, authorities erected a plaque marking the spot of the bunker.