Matt Wade – The Age May 8, 2011
PAKISTANI authorities are reported to be considering demolishing Osama bin Laden’s hideout in the garrison town of Abbottabad to prevent it becoming a rallying point for extremists.
The walled compound where bin Laden was killed when US forces raided in the early hours of Monday has been transformed from mysterious hideaway to tourist attraction.
“The crowds have been getting bigger every day,” said Hasnat Ahmed, a 22-year-old engineering graduate who can see bin Laden’s compound from his rooftop. “We are not sure about international tourism yet, but I think we will be getting plenty of people from Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.”
While al-Qaeda has finally admitted bin Laden’s death, many Pakistanis are sceptical about claims the al-Qaeda chief was killed in the raid and question the White House’s decision not to release photos of his body.
The US disposed of bin Laden’s body at sea so his grave wouldn’t become a shrine for extremists. But if the past few days are any guide, the al-Qaeda chief’s house has pulling power.
Sources have told The Sunday Age that demolition of the concrete buildings and high perimeter wall is being considered to stop it becoming a shrine. No date has been announced for any demolition.
Extra security personnel have been deployed around the compound in recent days to tighten security and help with crowd control.
“Everyone is interested in this,” said telco worker Shah Zaib Khan, who walked from his home more than an hour away to take a look at the walled compound. “Is it drama or is it a reality?”
Rashid-ul-Haq Qazi, a lawyer who visited the compound, had another suggestion: charge people to look inside. “It would be wiser to print some tickets and charge an entry fee,” he said.
Bin Laden’s fifth wife, detained after the raid on Abbottabad, has told Pakistani investigators that he lived in another town in northern Pakistan before moving to the neighbourhood where he was killed, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Amal Ahmed al-Sadah reportedly told investigators that bin Laden lived on the outskirts of Haripur, about 25 kilometres south of Abbottabad, from 2003 until late 2005.
This testimony suggests the world’s most wanted man was living in urban settlements for nearly eight years before he was killed.
Meanwhile The New York Times reported that the US government has demanded Pakistan provide the identities of some of its top intelligence operatives, as the US tries to determine whether any of them had contact with bin Laden or his agents in the years before he was killed.
The paper said there had been a tense discussion between Pakistani officials and a US envoy sent to Pakistan last week, amid growing suspicion among US intelligence and diplomatic officials that someone in Pakistan’s secret intelligence agency knew of bin Laden’s location and helped shield him.
With NEW YORK TIMES