How Osama Bin Laden was found and killed

It was announced several hours ago that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid on his private compound on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan. The raid was almost a year in the making, but the raid itself was over in 40 minutes.


Map from CBS News.

The compound was discovered by US Agents in August 2010 through detective work on the compound’s courier. Build in 2006, it was eight times larger than anything else in the area and was built at the end of a road. The building had no phone or Internet, had 18-foot high walls with no exterior windows, and two electrified security gates. On a third-floor balcony there was a 7-foot high privacy wall. The residents–Bin Laden, his youngest wife and their family, plus a courier and his brother, burned their garbage and it was not collected.

After discovering in August 2010, the CIA spent eight months of detective work until they came to the conclusion that the compound housed Bin Laden. It was built at cost of US$1 million, yet the courier and his brother had no explainable source of income.

The small team made up entirely of CIA personnel (the US military does not have authority to operate in Pakistan) went in with two Black Hawk helicopters. Pakistan was not informed of the raid beforehand, as the intelligence agency the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has long been suspected by the US of maintaining links to groups close to al-Qaida.

A firefight ensued when bin Laden resisted and he, the couriers and several others were killed, possibly including bin Laden’s son. While one helicopter circled, it had mechanical failure before leaving the raid and was brought down. It was destroyed by its occupants before leaving the scene.

Muslim practice calls for a body to be buried within 24 hours of death, and U.S. officials have said that bin Laden has already been buried at sea in accordance with Islamic practices.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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25 Responses to How Osama Bin Laden was found and killed

  1. “The residents–Obama, his youngest wife and their family, plus a courier and his brother, burned their garbage and it was not collected.”

    Donald Trump is going to love this…

  2. Curzon says:

    Thanks — amended.

    Speaking of Trump, I hear that he’s demanding to see OBL’s long-form death certificate.

  3. dangman4ever says:

    LOL @ Curzon’s joke

    Can’t wait till the full-on AAR is released.

  4. M-Bone says:

    Read in a variety of sources that it was Navy SEALS done the deed.

    Buried at sea = instant conspiracy theory

  5. spandrell says:

    He’s been buried according to Islamic law? wtf?!
    Shouldn’t his head be cut and stuck to a pike? And shown in the Afghan gov’t building for weeks or something.

  6. spandrell says:

    And btw Abottabad is an Army city, we’re supposed to believe that Osama was living there without the Army knowing? Its more likely Pakistan has been sheltering the dude while getting billions from the US to look for him,

  7. Curzon says:

    Spandrell, that’s been said by a few people — it’s a secular, tourist city with military academies and bases. More likely than the army being an accomplice is the fact that it would be the last place to look.

  8. Curzon says:

    And nothing wrong with burial at sea in Islam. Wash the body, tie a weight to it, and drop it into the deep.

  9. I find myself some what at odds with the rest of the world over this issue. I’m not at all saddened that he’s dead, and I prefer this to him being free and able to do what he did so evily. But that said, I really, really wish we’d been able to capture him alive and put him on trial. We are, after all, a nation of laws, and it would have been a nice change of pace to see us follow those laws during this “war on terror”.

    I also find it vaguely sickening to see people dancing in the streets. The best way to approach a death like this one is to view it as a regrettable necessity, not something to glorify.

  10. spandrell says:

    stop speaking Victorian. This makes no sense. At all.

  11. Alfred Russel Wallace says:

    I rather agree with Chris Swanson. There was an interesting commentary on Fresh Air tonight with New Yorker staff writer Lawrence Wright suggesting that the best fate would have been sequential trials in all those countries where his murderous escapades had been so successful, finishing up with a trial in Saudi Arabia and his execution under Sharia law…. Probably too silly, but it would have had an appropriate air of just retribution.
    http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=3&islist=true&id=13&d=05-02-2011

  12. Ahsan says:

    A facepalm moment for Pakistan.. not sure if I should smile or cringe! Isn’t it common wisdom to hide where the seeker will least suspect?

    I agree with M-Bone’s suggestion that burial at sea will generate conspiracy theories. All they had to do was keep the body, and tell everyone it was buried in a “secret place”! Perhaps the moment got the better of them.

    Still, an important day. As a wise man once said, “Yippeekaayay”!

  13. Curzon says:

    Chris: the announcement was made in the morning in local time in Dubai, and I read the news in the morning and then walked into the office, where a (North African) Arab colleague of mine said, “Great news! He’s dead.”

    I agreed — but I had just been reading a story of “celebrations” in New York, and I said something along the lines of what you said — isn’t it morbid to cheer and celebrate death? I’m glad he’s dead, but I’m not going to throw a dance party.

    My Arab colleague was of a different view. “Look at what he did to you. Look at what he did to ME! He has made international travel for everyone with an Arab name miserable, a living hell, for the last decade. Good riddance!”

  14. Curzon says:

    But to clarify, I’m happy that he’s dead and absolutely did not want a trial.

  15. Interesting. Why did you not want a trial? Aren’t fair trials one of the great hallmarks of civilization?

  16. SJPONeill says:

    I agree with Chris Swanson as well…circumstances of the actual take-down notwithstanding, OBL taken prisoner and tried in accordance with the laws of rule (just because AQ don’t play by them doesn’t mean that we drop to the same level)…after all the grief of the last decade, some form of public resolution/closure would have been nice…burial at sea, yeah, OK , but it’s not the same as a body…

  17. M-Bone says:

    “Why did you not want a trial?”

    I can see why they did it this way: a trial could lead to hostage takings demanding his release.

    “My Arab colleague was of a different view.”

    Good riddance indeed, but images of Americans celebrating reminded me more of scenes from the Arab world than anything.

  18. Alfred Russel Wallace says:

    Alas I agree with M-Bone – the celebrations are at best distasteful ….. and at worst remind us of places beyond the US.

    But the prospect of kidnap and hostages seems real enough to me if he were still alive, so this is probably the best end. I look forward to learning what his computers might contain – although I can wait until that information is used….

  19. Hostage taking is, I suppose, always a possibility, but should we set aside our laws under the possibility that someone might do something bad?

  20. Catoneo says:

    Chris,
    Trial has been done already.
    Strictly 4489 witnesses have given testimony all around the earth by their ugly death officially claimed by al-Qaeda. What do you expect more ?
    It is an excess of legalism to blame the failure of trial.
    Evil’s son is dead. What next ?

  21. Jefferson says:

    A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.

  22. More Yank Wank says:

    WTF..THEY SHOT HIS SON & all the yanks are sucking it up..OBL was killed in Tora Bora or died from his kidney probs..2 questions..how do 24 seals leave in one helo? and..where is the sons body..wheres the mass funeral for the Crown Prince of terror in Pakistan…wake up America..you government is lying again

  23. Strictly 4489 witnesses have given testimony all around the earth by their ugly death officially claimed by al-Qaeda. What do you expect more ?

    I would have expected an actual, formal, legal trial where he would have been entitled to representation. Yes, the verdict was most likely a foregone conclusion, and I’m as close as possible to 100% sure he did it, but trials are important. We managed to try a great many Nazis as the close of WWII, and arguably we didn’t have to do that. But we did, and it was the right thing to do.

    Now that said, if bin Laden was acting at all aggressively or putting up any kind of a fight, yes, our troops needed to keep themselves safe first and foremost. While I would have preferred for him to have had a trial, keeping our troops alive was more important at that precise moment.

    This does bring up an interesting question: what if the Brits had taken him alive at some point? British law prevents them from extraditing to any country that uses the death penalty. I wonder how that would have gone down, had he not simply been “shot while trying to escape.”

  24. Michael says:

    I’m in Mr Swanson’s camp, myself. Not because I wanted him beheaded by the Saudis but because a lifetime in a SuperMax watching the rest of the world go by without him seemed an appropriate punishment. Yes, followers would have threatened all sorts of nastiness in hopes of freeing him, but they’re threatening the same now as retribution–they’re going to do what they want, regardless.

  25. Julian Horovita says:

    More Yank Wank is right. Something did not seem quite right about the number of helo’s in the story. You may recall that they first said there were 4 choppers, then the story changed to 2, of which one crashed from some ground-effect issues.

    Of the Blackhawk, Wikipedia says, “It can carry 11 troops with equipment, lift 2,600 lb (1,170 kg) of cargo internally or 9,000 lb (4,050 kg) of cargo (for UH-60L/M) externally by sling”.

    ?