, Pakistan, Feb 27 – Bulldozers razed to the ground on Monday the infamous three-storey home in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden lived for at least five years until he was killed by US special forces last May.
Only the wall of the compound remained intact, obscuring the debris of the house in the garrison town of Abbottabad where the Al-Qaeda chief hid with his three wives and nine children, 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the capital.
Officials were reluctant for the site to become a shrine and the house was pulled down two months before the first anniversary of the secret US Navy SEAL raid that has been described as the Pakistan army’s biggest humiliation.
The fact that bin Laden lived so long just a mile from the country’s premier military academy exposed the powerful military to charges of complicity or incompetence and dealt a massive blow to Pakistan-US relations.
“The demolition has been completed, the three-storey building was razed to the ground,” a security official told AFP.
“We have been ordered to be deployed here until further instructions. The outer wall will remain intact for the moment and we don’t know the plan for the future. First we will remove the debris.”
Bulldozers began the demolition work late Saturday in Abbottabad’s Bilal Town, which was propelled from a quiet suburb to international notoriety after the Al-Qaeda leader was killed on May 2.
The debris from the flattened house was invisible from street level, hidden behind the 18-foot-high boundary wall of the compound.
But from the rooftops of surrounding houses, heaps of bricks, concrete slabs, twisted steel, broken wooden doors, a brown steel gate and two black plastic water tanks could be seen alongside two parked bulldozers.
“We found nothing in the building. Everything had already been taken away by the investigation experts,” the security official told AFP.
The compound has been closely guarded by Pakistani security officials since the decisive US operation. Foreign journalists in particular have been heavily restricted from visiting the site and local journalists from coming too close.
Hundreds of people visited after bin Laden’s killing, provoking concern that it could become a shrine to Islamist militants in a country where attacks blamed on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have killed thousands in recent years.
The Americans buried bin Laden’s body at sea, determined that no grave act as a memorial to the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
Many people living in the neighbourhood want a girls’ high school erected on the bin Laden plot — providing the local community with something they lack and a slap in the face for Islamist militants opposed to girls’ education.
“Whatever the reasons are for demolishing the house, I’m happy that these police will go back and open the streets for us,” local resident Daud Khan told AFP in Abbottabad, a peaceful, relatively wealthy and moderate town.
“We’re really facing problems because there’s no girls’ high school here. It’s the best positive use the government could act upon,” he said.
Mohammad Siddique, sitting nearby and watching the bulldozers smash through the brick and concrete, agreed.
“It will be the best message to the world because militants are against girls’ education.”
Pakistan is accused in the West and in Afghanistan of sponsoring Islamist militants — allegations that it strenuously denies.
There are now signs that Islamabad is trying to repair relations with the United States, which sank to their lowest ebb after US air strikes in November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.
A security official at the site told AFP he thought the land should be used by farmers. “Let this filth be removed forever. Lets grow potatoes and other vegetables,” he told AFP.
But asked whether that was a government decision, he said: “That’s what I think personally, no decision has yet been taken.”
Another security official said it would take time before the government decides what to do with the land.
“By demolishing this compound they want to remove Osama’s name from Abbottabad history but you can’t delete history,” said Pakistani journalist and an expert on militancy, Rahimullah Yusufzai.