13 Mar 2015

Inside Osama Bin Laden’s Afghan compound

A series of newly released images show the late Osama Bin Laden inside his Tora Bora compound in the Afghan mountains.

Credit: Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York

A smiling Obama is seen apparently relaxed in a number of images taken by Palestinian journalist Adel Barri Atwan during his 1996 visit to the hideout.

The pictures came to light as part of the terrorism conspiracy trial of Khaled al-Fawwaz, where they were used as evidence.

Al-Fawwaz was extradited from the UK along with Abu Hamza and Adel Abdel Bary on charges related to being a member of al-Qaeda in 2012. Al-Fawwaz arranged Bin Laden’s first two TV interviews for Bin Laden in 1997 and 1998, and worked served as a communications adviser to the terrorist mastermind before and after the 9/11 attacks.

Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan from Sudan in 1996, settling in the eastern city of Jalalabad, before building his mountain fortress in Tora Bora.

Credit: Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York

He spent years developing a network of caves and tunnels under the immense complex, which housed his closest allies, as well as friends and family.

The 1996 pictures show Bin Laden smiling and relaxed in the company of Abdel Barri Atwan, the founder of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an Arabic newspaper published in London.

Atwan said he was initially hesitant as to whether he should accept the invitation issued by Al-Fawwaz. In an interview for the book The Osama bin Laden I Know, he said:

“I was told Osama bin Laden was fond of my writing, he liked my style and he wanted to meet me personally. I was hesitant, because it was very dangerous.”

Credit: Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York

The date-stamped pictures were discovered by Scotland Yard detectives two years later in the London home of al-Fawwaz. Bin Laden is seen video recording his pronouncements, surrounded by books and maps in various libraries, as well as out hiking in snow-covered mountains.

Atwan said he met Bin Laden in one of the caves within the compound, and slept on a bed on top of grenades. Atwan said Bin Laden’s three wives did not enjoy living in the compound, due to the harsh conditions and lack of available food.

He is believed to have stayed in the compound until December 2001, when western forces tracked him down and targeted the base with heavy air strikes. He evaded capture and slipped into neighbouring Pakistan. He was killed in May 2011 during a Navy Seal operation.

Al-Fawwaz was convicted in Manhattan federal court on February 26 and could face life imprisonment.

All pictures below, credit: Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York