The sprawling three-story compound where Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden spent the last years of his life is being razed to the ground by Pakistani authorities, in what analysts say is an effort to move on from an intelligence failure that left the military reeling.
Work on flattening the compound began late Saturday night, but the government is officially staying mum over the timing and reason for the demolition. Mr. Bin Laden was killed on May 2 last year following a daring raid by US Navy seals, leaving the government embarrassed over the fact that the terror chief was found inside Pakistan, and that it was not informed in advance about the raid.
Talat Masood, a retired general and security analyst, says the government wants to remove the building which stands as a monument to their ineptitude.
“I think the primary purpose is to remove all traces of Osama’s presence for several years in Abbottabad. People could raise a [shrine] and eulogize him, embarrassing Pakistan and glorifying militancy and radicalism in Pakistan.
“The second factor… is it’s a constant reminder of the failure of the intelligence services not to have detected him and the fact that the Americans launched a major offensive, and the [military] were unprepared on the Western borders,” he adds.
Residents told local media that police and soldiers cordoned off the entire Bilal Town neighborhood Saturday night, preventing people from entering or leaving.
They then moved in with cranes to pull the house apart. “"We believed the army would use explosives to blow up the building but it wasn't the case,” Momin Khan told Geo News.
The reason the compound was not taken earlier because it was subject to investigation and forensic examination, says Ejaz Haider, the Director of Jinnah Institute, an Islamabad-based think thank.
A Pakistani commission investigating the facts surrounding the raid, dubbed the “Abbottabad Commission” is now believed to be close to finalizing its report, which observers believe is likely to exculpate the country’s powerful military.
In January, the commission ordered that Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who allegedly helped the CIA gather intelligence by conducting a fake vaccination drive that included the Bin Laden residence, be tried for treason. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in response expressed concern for Afridi, saying: “He was not treasonous in any way toward Pakistan.”
The commission also sought a response from the CIA which was ignored by the American intelligence agency, according to The News, a Pakistani daily.
Bin Laden’s family, meanwhile, including his youngest wife and her five children remain in Pakistani custody.
Says Haider, the compound’s destruction indicates authorities desire to “move on.”