3 May 2011

Tweeting from Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout

Channel 4 News has sent International Editor Lindsey Hilsum and producer Nevine Mabro to the Abbottabad compound where Osama bin Laden was killed. Their tweets make fascinating reading.

Abbottabad: a boy picks up debris close to bin Laden's former hideout. (Reuters)

(Abbottabad: a boy picks up debris close to Osama bin Laden’s former hideout. Reuters)

As the world’s media clamour for access to the site in northern Pakistan where Osama bin Laden met his end, Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum and producer Nevine Mabro are at the compound which was attacked by US forces on Sunday.

Communicating via her Twitter account, Nevine Mabro describes the compound in Abbottabad as “high concrete walls and barbed wire” and “not luxurious but its larger than surrounding houses”.

On the specifics of bin Laden’s living arrangements, Lindsey Hilsum tweets: “I’m on a rooftop lking into #binladen’s yard – bullet holes on what lks like an entrance passage. This was no ordinary hse!” Nevine Mabro writes: “His compound has 2 sections- a yard and a 3 story house. Looks like a military installation.” And she notes: “We can see bullet holes in house.”

Lindsey Hilsum describes the area as “a quiet, middle class neighbourhood where #binladen lived. Abt 100 people have gathered outside to marvel and pinch themselves.”

Nevine Mabro also confirms that many of the neighbours were ignorant of the fact that the United States’ number one enemy was living in their midst. “Some neighbours of #OBL say they don’t believe he lived here. They say its ridiculous to think OBL could hide in this town.”

In some circles, much of what happened on and after 11 September 2001 has been obscured by conspiracy theory – and events surrounding the bin Laden killing at the weekend will undoubtedly add to the clouds of confusion.

One Lindsey Hilsum tweet, for example, states: “Several people living near #binladen don’t believe it was him. They say they need to see the body.” It is a theme echoed by Nevine Mabro, who observes: “#OBL neighbours asking why the US govt has not release photo of him or video of raid.”

In one sinister vignette, a neighbour tells Lindsey Hilsum how a child’s cricket ball had been launched over the nine-foot wall surrounding the property. “They weren’t allowed to retrieve it but were given money instead.”

And further evidence that the compound had managed to blend anonymously into Abbottabad life is revealed by a huge billboard attached to the building’s boundary fence. “Bizarre, ironic detail: an ad for a girls’ school is painted on #binladen’s 20 foot high compound wall,” tweets the Channel 4 News International Editor.