The size, location, and security posture of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s safe house led U.S. intelligence to conclude a high-value terrorist was holed up there, senior national security officials revealed last night during a late-night conference call with reporters.
The intelligence information was enough for President Barack Obama to authorize a surgical strike led by a small team of U.S. forces using helicopters. In the firefight that ensued between U.S. forces and militants at the compound Sunday, bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader responsible for the September 11th attacks and the world’s most wanted man, was killed. National security officials, who did not want to be named, told reporters that bin Laden offered resistance during the firefight.
The officials revealed that the intelligence breakthrough occurred last August, when one of bin Laden’s most trusted couriers unknowingly led the United States to the compound, which U.S. intelligence put under surveillance.
The compound, located 35 miles north of Islamabad in the relatively wealthy suburb of Abbottabad favored by retired Pakistani military officers, was eight times larger than other residences in the area. The secluded three-story compound was surrounded by walls 12-to-18 foot high walls, which were topped with barbed wire. The well-protected compound also featured two security gates.
Other suspicious details about the house and the activity surrounding it piqued the U.S. intelligence community’s interest, according to a senior national security official. Despite being valued at approximately $1 million, the house had no Internet or telephone connections. U.S. intelligence also concluded that the courier and his brother tracked to the house also had no way to financially support such a compound. Another important detail was the presence of a family living in the compound that matched bin Laden’s. And unlike the other residences in the area, men burned the compound's trash rather than taking it to the street like their neighbors.
From this information, U.S. intelligence concluded that the compound harbored a high-value terrorist and determined with high probability that the terrorist was indeed the al Qaeda leader the United States had been hunting for nearly a decade.