Pakistan almost razes Bin Laden’s compound
Policemen stand guard near the partially demolished compound where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces last May, in Abbottabad. Reuters photoPakistan was more than halfway done yesterday demolishing the three-story compound where Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos last May, erasing a concrete reminder of a painful and embarrassing chapter in the country’s history.
Rings of police kept spectators and journalists away from the compound, which the government began tearing down Feb. 25 night under powerful floodlights without providing prior notice. Three mechanized backhoes ripped into the building, according to an Associated Press reporter who was able to get close enough to see the work.
Pakistan was outraged by the covert American raid in the northwestern town of Abbottabad because it was not told about it beforehand a decision the U.S. explained was driven by concerns that someone in the government might tip off bin Laden.
The terror leader’s death was cheered across the globe, but many Pakistanis were angry that the U.S. violated its territory and that its troops were powerless to stop American soldiers from attacking a compound located next to the country’s elite military academy.
The backhoes heavy machines with strong crane-like digging arms have torn down the tall boundary walls around bin Laden’s compound and have destroyed more than half of the main building, where the al-Qaida chief lived for years with his wives and children.
Work continued yesterday morning but paused around midday so that large trucks could carry away the debris.
Pakistani officials have declined to say why they decided to begin demolition. Residents of the normally sleepy town of Abbottabad were divided on what the government should do with the compound in the aftermath of the raid. Some thought it should be destroyed, but others believed it should be turned into a tourist attraction to help the town earn money. There was always the danger, however, that it could also draw al-Qaida supporters.
Meanwhile, A U.S. drone crashed late Feb. 25 in North Waziristan, not far from the Afghan border, Pakistan intelligence officials said, while Taliban militants said they had shot it down. Taliban militants led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur said they had collected wreckage of the destroyed drone and would provide its pictures to the media. “The drone today in Machikhel was flying at low altitude and our fighters fired at and shot it down,” a local commander of the Taliban said. “We have trained people for such type of job.” It is impossible to verify the militants’ account and a U.S. official in Washington denied the Taliban had shot down the drone, Reuters reported.