TTABAD Osama bin Laden was killed in an early Monday morning operation carried out by 35 US Marines. About 200 Pakistan Army men provided ground support, top level official sources told TheNation. During the operation, four helicopters of the Pakistan Army hovered over the fortress-like hideout of al-Qaeda chief at Thanda Choh, a relatively isolated area of Abbottabads otherwise posh locality Bilal Town that is barely a kilometre away from the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul. After completing aerial assessments, the four Pakistan Army helicopters were replaced by two US helicopters, ten minutes later. Initially, the US military personnel opened fire at the outer wall of Osamas hideout, which was retaliated by the house inmates with heavy gunfire. After almost twenty minutes of cross-firing, the US forces directly targeted the house with sophisticated bombs, eventually killing Osama, his eight bodyguards, seven close aides and an unspecified number of family members including a young son, children and two wives. When the residents of the area, upon hearing heavy gunshots and explosions, came out of their homes or went up to the rooftops of their houses, Pakistani soldiers in helicopters threw search lights, instructing them to stay indoors. Besides initial aerial support, the Pakistan Army provided ground support by deploying ground troops within a radius of one kilometre of the operation area. The operation continued till 2: 30am. PMA top officials at Kakul did not disclose for several hours the name of the locality where the operation had taken place. Till Monday morning, PMA officials maintained that a Pakistan Army helicopter had crashed near Bilal Town while carrying out routine strategic exercises. Not before the Monday noon, it could be confirmed that Osama bin Laden was killed in the military operation.
Osamas 'neighbours living in the vicinity of the hideout where al-Qaedas top man had been hiding since 2006 shared some interesting details regarding the mystery involving the particular house. The 11-kanal house was reportedly bought by al-Qaeda back in 2006 from a resident of Peshawar. The compound wall of this huge house covers 1,600 square feet. Parallel to this wall, an adjacent wall, with a gap of almost two feet between both the walls, had been constructed. The gap between the two walls was to be filled with bombproof material. Osamas men had very rare, restricted and covert movement and they would use a white Suzuki carry van to move outside the home. The 'neighbours did not have even the slightest clue that the worlds most wanted man was living next to them. The security agencies found an outdated manual national identity card (MNIC) number 13977413092 belonging to one Muhammad Hassan from Charsadda. The photocopy of the same card was used to purchase land for Osamas Thanda Choh hideout.
Madrassa Safina Muhammadia is located a few yards away from Obamas destroyed hideout but Osama reportedly did not develop any contact with the madrassa administration to keep his stay secret.
Meanwhile, Sahir Elahi, an eyewitness who lives a few yards from the place where the operation took place, doubted if any helicopter had crashed. We were the first to reach the spot by that time the security forces had not cordoned off the area. The wreckage of any helicopter was nowhere to be seen. I think it was a bomb that was dropped by the US forces, he said.
It was like Dooms Day, we heard heavy explosions that shook us. It was followed by heavy gunfire and similar explosions; we couldnt sleep till dawn, he added.
Agencies add: US officials said bin Laden was found in a million-dollar compound in the upscale town of Abbottabad, 60 km north of Islamabad. A source familiar with the operation said bin Laden was shot in the head.
Bin Ladens killings at this point in time will serve as a political boost to US President Obama ahead of presidential elections next year.
US officials said American forces were led to fortress-like three-storey building in Abbottabad after more than four years tracking one of bin Ladens most trusted couriers, whom US officials said was identified by men captured after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Detainees also identified this man as one of the few al Qaeda couriers trusted by bin Laden. They indicated he might be living with or protected by bin Laden, a senior administration official said in a briefing for reporters in Washington.
Bin Laden was finally found after authorities discovered in August 2010 that the courier lived with his brother and their families in an unusual and extremely high-security building in Pakistan, officials said.
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 bottom line of our collection and our analysis was that we had high confidence that the compound harboured a high-value terrorist target. The experts who worked this issue for years assessed that there was a strong probability that the terrorist who was hiding there was Osama bin Laden, another administration official said.
In addition to the killings, two other women were injured in the raid that lasted less than 40 minutes, an official said.
The New York Times said bin Ladens body was taken to Afghanistan and then buried at sea as a Saudi official refused to take the body.
The operation took under 40 minutes. A US helicopter was lost due to a mechanical problem and its crew and assault force safely evacuated, officials said. No Americans were harmed in the operation, Obama said.
After midnight, a large number of commandos encircled the compound. Three helicopters were hovering overhead, said Nasir Khan, a resident of the town.
All of a sudden there was firing towards the helicopters from the ground. There was intense firing and then I saw one of the helicopters crash, said Khan, who had watched the dramatic scene unfold from his rooftop.
Authorities said bin Ladens hideaway had no telephone or Internet connection.
Bin Ladens death triggered a travel alert for Americans worldwide, the US State Department said, warning of the potential for anti-American violence.
Many Americans had given up hope of finding bin Laden after he vanished in the mountains of Afghanistan in late 2001.
Intelligence that originated last August provided the clues that eventually led to bin Ladens trail, the president said. A US official said Obama gave the final order to pursue the operation last Friday morning.
Two wives and four children of Osama bin Laden have been taken into custody after he was killed by US special forces commandos.
However, it was not immediately known under whose custody they are currently in.
Pakistani troops have sealed off the compound and blocked all roads leading to it.
The body of Osama bin Laden has been buried at sea after he was killed by US covert forces in Pakistan, US media reported added.
Cable television networks CNN, MSNBC and Fox said a senior US official had confirmed to them that bin Ladens body had been buried in the sea, without giving further details.
US officials did not respond when contacted by AFP for confirmation of the reports.
But earlier an administration official said of the corpse: We are ensuring that it is handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition.
This is something that we take very seriously. And so therefore this is being handled in an appropriate manner.
Burying bin Ladens body at sea would ensure that his final resting place does not become a shrine and a place of pilgrimage for his followers, ABC television reported earlier.
The United States also conducted DNA testing on slain Osama bin Laden and used facial recognition techniques to help identify him, a US official said.
Results of the DNA tests should be available in the next few days, the official said.
The strike force was on the ground the operation was watched real-time by CIA Director Leon Panetta and other intelligence officials in a conference room at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, the official said.
When word came in that the operation was a success, CIA officials in the conference room had a rather large applause, the official said.
Meanwhile, nominated CIA Chief David Petraeus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on Monday telephoned Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani along with ISI Chief Shujah Pasha and discussed with them a host of issues following the killing of Osama bin Laden and enhancing intelligence sharing network.
According to military sources, both the US dignitaries thanked the military leadership of Pakistan on intelligence sharing and the successful operation.
They opined that only due to cooperation of Pakistan, they got success, adding the US will continue to enhance defence relations and will cater to all its needs.
Another report said US forces, prior to launching an attack on Osama bin Laden, had jammed the countrys radar system to escape detection.
Official sources told Online that between 8:15 to 8:30pm Sunday night, two helicopters carrying 20 to 25 US Marines flew from Batgram Airbase in Afghanistan and traveled 120km inside Pakistan.
Prior to entering Pakistan airspace, they jammed the radars system and were flying low. Due to the jammers, the radars could not pick them up. The helicopters were well equipped with night vision and were satellite guided to locate the target.
Official sources said the compound of bin Laden had two floors. On the second floor Osama and his two brothers and a Kuwaiti guard were present.
While on the ground floor, his Yemeni wife and 8 to 9 children were present.
Sources told that when one of the helicopters made an attempt to land, it was fired on and rendered dysfunctional. The second chopper was then carried out the attack. Sources said the US forces then themselves destroyed the dysfunctional first copter as they did not want to leave any data.
The US forces took the dead body of Osama and his brother into custody while left the remaining, which were removed by Pakistani security agencies, and injured were taken to hospital, sources said.
Said Alam Khan from Peshawar adds: Sources said that some days ago, a prominent Al-Qaeda member had been arrested from Abbottabad, who during interrogation revealed the presence of Osama Bin Laden and his family in the area.
Eyewitnesses said that residents of the house never came out. However, two youngsters occasionally visited a nearby shop for purchasing something. Actually nobody knew that Osama was residing at the house.
Late Sunday night, US forces conducted an operation at Bilal Town using helicopters. Exact at 1:15am, two small and one huge blasts were heard in the area. Soon after that blast people saw flames arising out of a crashed helicopter at the site. However, it was yet to be ascertained whether the chopper crashed owing to technical fault or any other reason.
At least two other choppers continued the operation reportedly dropping troops for ground operation and time huge firing started. During the operation time, residents of the area were restricted to their homes as the operation lasted for about one hour and later the helicopters left the area. However, nobody even media teams were allowed to enter the operation area.