Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

US hit squad swooped on Bin Laden villa in pre-dawn strike

Smoke, flames and debris erupt from one of the World Trade Center towers after a plane strikes it, in New York.
Smoke, flames and debris erupt from one of the World Trade Center towers after a plane strikes it, in New York.
A man who said he was dressed as "Captain America," cheers early Monday, May 2, 20111, across the street from the White House in Washington, as people gather to cheer the United States after it was announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Osama Bin Laden, the al Qaida leader, appears on this layout for an FBI poster after he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list in June 1999, in connection with the bombings of the U.S.
A crowd outside the White House in Washington, cheers Sunday, May 1, 2011, upon hearing the news that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is dead. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
A driver and passengers celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden in the streets of Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, May 1, 2011. President Barack Obama announced Sunday night, May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
A crowd in New York's Times Square reacts to the news of Osama Bin Laden's death early Monday morning May 2, 2011. President Barack Obama announced Sunday night, May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
Dustin Fredrickson, of New York, center, holds up an American flag as he stands on a fire truck amongst those gathered in New York's Times Square reacting to the news of Osama Bin Laden's death early Monday morning May 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
A man who said he was dressed as "Captain America," cheers early Monday, May 2, 20111, across the street from the White House in Washington, as people gather to cheer the United States after it was announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
A U.S. Park Police officer is handed a flag as crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
This April 1998 file photo is thought to show exiled al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan
Osama Bin Laden has been killed in a US operation (AP)
1998 file photo, onlookers stand at the foot of the damaged buildings in Nairobi, Kenya, after a huge explosion ripped apart a building in the Kenyan capital, heavily destroying the U.S. Embassy. Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida organization behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States and blamed for the 1998 embassy bombing in Kenya and Tanzania, is dead, a person familiar with the situation said late Sunday. (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File)
In this undated still from video released Sept. 10, 2003, Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, left, and his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri appear. A person familiar with developments on Sunday, May 1, 2011 says bin Laden is dead and the U.S. has the body. (AP Photo/Al Jazeera via APTN)
In this Oct. 7, 2001, file photo, Osama bin Laden, left, with his top lieutenant Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri, are seen at an undisclosed location in this television image broadcast. A person familiar with developments said Sunday, May 1, 2011 that bin Laden is dead and the U.S. has the body. (AP Photo/Al Jazeera, File)
Crowds celebrate on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, early Monday, May 2, 2011, after President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Osama bin Laden was hiding in a two-storey villa 100 yards from a Pakistani military academy when four helicopters carrying US anti-terror forces swooped in the early morning hours.



Flames rose from the building that was the apparent target of the raid as it was confirmed that the world's most wanted fugitive died not in a cave, but in a town best known as a garrison for the Pakistani military.

A US official said one of bin Laden's sons was also killed in the raid along with three others, but the official did not name the son or the others killed.

Pakistani officials and a witness said bin Laden's guards opened fire from the roof of the building and one of the choppers crashed.

The sound of at least two explosions rocked the small north-western town of Abbottabad where the al Qaida chief made his last stand. The US said no Americans were harmed in the raid.

Abbottabad, home to at least one regiment of the Pakistani army, is dotted with military buildings and home to thousands of army personnel. Surrounded by hills and with mountains in the distance, it is less than half a days drive from the border region with Afghanistan, where most intelligence assessments believed bin Laden was hiding.

The news that he was killed in an army town in Pakistan will raise more pointed questions about how he managed to evade capture and whether Pakistan's military and intelligence leadership knew of his whereabouts and sheltered him.

Critics have long accused elements of Pakistan's security establishment of protecting bin Laden, though Islamabad has always denied this.

Abbotabad resident Mohammad Haroon Rasheed said the raid happened at about 1.15am local time.

"I heard a thundering sound, followed by heavy firing. Then firing suddenly stopped. Then more thundering, then a big blast," he said. "In the morning when we went out to see what happened, some helicopter wreckage was lying in an open field."

He said the house was 100 yards away from the gate of the academy.

A Pakistani official in the town said fighters on the roof opened fire on the choppers as they came close to the building with rocket propelled grenades. Another official said four helicopters took off from the Ghazi air base in north-west Pakistan.

Last summer, the US army was based in Ghazi to help out in the aftermath of the floods.

Women and children were taken into custody during the raid, he said.

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