Bin Laden compound contained women, children, chickens, eggs…

AFP: Bin Laden’s Pakistan ‘farm’ had rustic charm”

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan – Three women, 12 children, cows, rabbits and chickens all hid behind the high wall where Osama bin Laden carved out a family life, set to the gentle rhythm of changing seasonal crops outside his gate.

Mobile phone video footage taken Tuesday by a Pakistani soldier offered a final glimpse into a life of rustic simplicity — a dozen eggs sitting in the kitchen sink, a few dishes on the side, large wooden cupboards open and bare.

Bin Laden’s final home, ransacked by US Navy SEAL commandos in an overnight raid last Sunday in the foothills of Pakistan’s Himalayan mountains, was not the luxury pile US reports first suggested.

The three-story building that became the fugitive terror chief’s last refuge was built in 2005, a white-walled square-built block without balconies, resembling a small clinic more than a country mansion.

A score [20] of people lived alongside the Al-Qaeda chief in his rural dwelling, including three of his wives and a dozen of their children.

At least five of them were killed during the US assault: bin Laden, whose body was taken by the Americans, one of his sons, his two bodyguards — known as the “Kuwaitis” – and a woman, according to Pakistani security sources.

The survivors — three women and their children — are in Pakistani army detention. During interrogation, the youngest of the wives, Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, a 29-year-old Yemeni, told investigators that bin Laden had lived in the villa for five years.

US reports on Saturday said materials seized during the raid show bin Laden was still actively masterminding the Al-Qaeda network from the house.

Tuesday’s footage gives a flavor of the lives led there, organized by the “Kuwaitis” — two brothers called Arshad Khan and Tariq who circulated around Abbottabad frequently.

The men, who used false names, were Pakistani, despite their nickname, according to Pakistani media. Their father, who hails from the Islamist stronghold of Waziristan in the country’s northwest, was a friend of bin Laden from the time they met.

The house chosen for bin Laden had gray tile floor slabs with austere concrete walls and stairs. Its spartan interior had simple wooden furniture, foam mattresses on the floor and old television sets suggesting a life devoid of luxury.

The bedroom of the Saudi-born terror chief, who lived on the top two floors of the house with his family, was no less basic.

Outside, the bin Ladens raised chickens and grew vegetables in the shadow of their towering walls and tall poplar trees, cultivating a life of near self-sufficiency.

“They had two cows, dogs, and over a hundred chickens, that’s a lot. We could hear the chickens from our house,” said Mohammad Qasim, who lived next door.

Another neighbor, the young Zarar, 14, claims he once entered the property briefly.

“I saw two women who spoke Arabic, and they gave me a gift — two rabbits,” he said.

Only one man was, from time to time, allowed in the gardens: Shamrez Mohammad, the farmer in charge of feeding the animals and helping to grow the potatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables on the fertile land.

“Farm bin Laden” was perhaps “organic” if Shamrez, like his neighbors, avoided using pesticide sprays on the land.

Arrested by the Pakistani army just after the US raid, the key witness was released Friday. According to his son, he has since left town.

The army seized the house on Tuesday and has now emptied it. The soldiers will likely take the animals left behind to divide between them, said a neighbor.

Mohammad Kareem, a property agent in the area, said he saw “the soldiers chasing chickens” around the house on Monday. “They will share them out and eat them with their families,” he said.

As for the two cows, he says they are “probably on the way to a military-owned factory farm by now”.

The fate of the rabbits is still unclear.

According to sources familiar with jihadist networks, bin Laden was in poor health, with a kidney ailment that required medical care. But no neighbor recalls seeing regular visitors to the house.

Questioned on this point by the Pakistani services, Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, quoted by local media, apparently replied that her husband, 25 years her senior, was “not weak or fragile.”

Drawing instead on the resources around him, the terror chief instead was being treated “successfully” with natural remedies, “including watermelon,” she said.


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Filed under 5. Bin Laden / Al-Qaeda

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