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In PHOTOS: Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

Last updated on: May 2, 2012 10:18 IST

In PHOTOS: Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Residents of Bilal town in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad where Osama Bin Laden was killed last year have asked the government to build a"statue of peace" or a beautiful monument at the site of his compound to remind the world that there is no place for such a terrorist mastermind.

On the first anniversary of the death of the Al Qaeda chief on Wednesday, security forces have been put on high alert across Pakistan to counter any possible terrorist attacks.

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Image: Children play cricket in the rain on the demolished site of the compound of Osama bin Laden, in Abbottabad. Osama bin Laden was killed a year ago, on May 2, 2011, by a United States special operations military unit in a raid on his compound
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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"We have written to the Pakistan government to build either a statue of peace or a beautiful monument at the site where Laden lived illegally.By doing so, we should give a message to the world that the man who was the symbol of terror is no more along with his philosophy. His elimination will bring peace to the world," Zubair Ahmed, a resident of Bilal Town neighbourhood where bin Laden's compound was located, told PTI on phone.

Ahmed, a banker by profession, said he had heard that a playground would be built at the site of the compound, which was demolished in February.


Image: Six-year-old Anum, poses for her uncle for a picture while visiting the site of the demolished compound of Osama bin Laden
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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"These days, boys playing cricket there," he said.

Bin Laden lived at the compound in Bilal Town with his three wives and several children for about five years before he was killed in a unilateral United States military raid early on May 2 last year.


Image: A boy uses a hammer to break a concrete block to scavenge for iron from the demolished compound in Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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The operation embarrassed the Pakistani security establishment, which was dogged by questions about whether senior officials had been aware of bin Laden's presence in a compound located a stone's throw from the elite Pakistan Military Academy.


Image: A boy guides his sheep past the demolished site of a compound of Osama bin Laden
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Even a year after the US operation, certain restrictions continue to affect the lives of residents of Abbottabad district.

Ahmed said, "The first thing we are not supposed to forget while going out of the home is to carry our computerized national identity cards, which was not the case before the US operation. The second is we can no longer sell or purchase property in the whole district after the incident. Thirdly, police and army patrols in the area have increased, which is not a bad thing as far as our security is concerned. And finally a couple of check posts at some points have added a little inconvenience to guests coming from other parts of the country".


Image: Residents sit near children playing cricket on the demolished site of a compound of Osama bin Laden
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Abbottabad , Ahmed , US

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Ahmed admitted it felt a little strange to have to show his ID card to enter his own neighbourhood. "It's seems really weird. The other interesting thing was when almost all my relatives in Lahore, Karachi, Faislabad and Multan visited me last summer with only the wish of seeing bin Laden's compound," he said.

Image: An elderly man rides a donkey along a road in the outskirt of Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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"I took them to the compound which is not far away from my house. A police post was set up half a kilometre from the compound. Visitors can have a glimpse of the spot from that post. But my relatives were happy having a look even from a distance. They would go back home and tell their friends and neighbours that they had seen bin Laden's house where he was living with his three wives," Ahmed said with a laugh.


Image: Residents offer prayers in an open yard of the Jamia Masjid Mandian in Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Nazim Waheed, a schoolteacher whose father is a retired army official, said they were not happy with the Pakistan army and its intelligence set-up, as they should have had knowledge about bin Laden's presence.

"It's the failure of our intelligence agencies. The military academy is just 10 minutes away from bin Laden's compound and it's a shame that we did not know of the presence of the world's most wanted man," he said.


Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Javed Bashir, a doctor, raised questions about bin Laden's presence that reflected the perception of some residents of Abbottabad who contend that the Al Qaeda chief had never lived in the area."One of my patients, whose house is a few meters from bin Laden's compound, had met a man from that house in a street a few months before the US operation but he found him to be a strange person," Bashir said.

"After that, my patient shared this information with his wife and told her not to visit that compound as the man appeared to be somehow different and weird," Bashir said.


Image: A girl takes care of her pet camels while travelling with her family in Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Bashir continues to be skeptical about bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad.He said, "If bin Laden was here and is dead, I am happy. I do not know about his role in 9/11 but one thing is for sure, he was not doing something right for the cause of Islam.

"Like Waheed, Bashir was unhappy with the army after the US raid. "A major chunk of our budget is spent on the army. Things are not right. Some of my relatives are fighting against militants in South Waziristan.

 "Junior army officers and soldiers are dying there. There should be an end to it and the army come up with a solid policy," he said.



Image: Children eat potato chips at a food stall in Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters

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Abbottabad, a year after the Osama raid

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Local residents said there had been a marked increase in visits by domestic tourists after the US raid.

Ahmed said, "Since it's a hill town, tourists pour in here every year. But last year it was phenomenal. But now I'm glad the government had demolished the compound as we will no longer have to entertain relatives and friends who want to see the house where bin Laden lived."


Image: Children offer prayers on the roof of Jamia Masjid Mandian in Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters
Tags: Ahmed , Abbottabad , US

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