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Bin Laden's compound demolished

Pakistan has started to demolish the compound in the north-west city of Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden lived for years and was killed by US commandos last May, residents have said.

Two residents say the government brought in three mechanised excavators and began destroying the tall outer walls of the compound after sunset.

They set up floodlights to carry out the work.

The compound has been a painful reminder for Pakistan, which was embarrassed by the unilateral US operation that killed bin Laden.

Pakistan was outraged by the covert American raid because it was not told about it beforehand. The country's powerful military faced rare domestic criticism because it was not able to stop US troops from infiltrating the country by helicopter from Afghanistan.

The demolition team conducted its work under heavy security. A large team of police set up an outer cordon around the compound to keep spectators away, said a reporter who managed to get close enough to see the demolition work under way.

A ring of army soldiers set up an inner cordon and warmed themselves against the winter chill by lighting a bonfire.

The excavators broke through tall outer boundary walls that ringed a courtyard where one of the US helicopters crashed during the operation to kill the al Qaida chief, said the reporter. They then began to tear down the compound itself.

A Pakistani intelligence official confirmed that the demolition was in progress but declined to say why the government chose to do it.

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