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Meet the man who live tweeted raid that killed Osama

Last updated on: May 2, 2011 19:19 IST

Meet the man who live tweeted raid that killed Osama

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A tweeter who described himself as an Information Technology consultant taking a break from the 'rat-race' by hiding in the mountains" in Abbottabad in Pakistan may have unwittingly covered United States military's dramatic attack that brought down Osama bin Laden.

At about 1 am (local time), 33-year-old Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) put out his first tweet that a helicopter was flying above Abbottabad -- "a rare event," he said.

"Go away helicopter -- before I take out my giant swatter :-/" Athar joked.

He then reported a "huge window-shaking bang" and added, "It was too noisy to be a spy craft, or a very poor spy craft it was." He went on to say, "I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S." He also tweeted that a friend heard it 6 km away too.

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Image: The Twitter page of Sohaib Athar
Photographs: David Loh/Reuters
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At 1.30 am, the 40-minute operation that eliminated the mastermind behind 9/11 was over and hours later, news broke of Bin Laden's death.

"Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.," he tweeted. "And here come the mails from the mainstream media... *sigh*"

In the age of Twitter, perhaps it's no surprise that the first signs of the US operation that killed the Al Qaeda leader were noticed by an IT consultant awake late at night.

And Twitter buffs were ecstatic over the microblogging site stealing a march over the mainstream media for the developing story.

Image: The compound, within which bin Laden was killed, is seen in flames after it was attacked in Abbottabad
Photographs: Reuters
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Osama bin Laden is dead -- yeah, you knew that already, but did you know that Twitter broke the story first," said one blogpost.

During the course of his intense tweeting, Athar said,"The few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani. ... Taliban (probably) don't have helicopters ... so must be a complicated situation.

The tweets later took the following pattern, "It was shot down near the Bilal Town area ... People are saying it was not a technical fault and it was shot down. ... Another rumour: two copters that followed the crashed one were foreign Cobras."


Image: A screen grab from FBI's Most Wanted website shows the status of bin Laden as deceased
Photographs: Reuters
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Athar woke up to discover "interesting rumours".  The realisation hit him at about 10 am Pakistan time. "He'd inadvertently live tweeted the attack on Osama bin Laden's compound," read a tweet.

 It was a tweet again that gave the first credible sign bin Ladin's death. Keith Urbahn, the ex-Chief of Staff for Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted "I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden." It was re-tweeted hundreds of times and Twitter itself experienced traffic spikes of 4,000 tweets per second.

Athar, who describes himself online as "an IT consultant" who is originally from the major city of Lahore, Pakistan, but is "taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops" has since been added by thousands of Twitter followers in the hours after bin Laden's death was announced.


Image: Pakistani soldiers walk past a compound, surrounded in red fabric, where locals reported a firefight took place overnight in Abbotabad
Photographs: /Faisal Mahmood/Reuters
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