Feb. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistani authorities demolished most of the hideout north of Islamabad where U.S. Navy commandos killed Osama bin Laden in May, according to a resident of the neighborhood and video footage shown on Pakistani TV channels.
Pakistani security forces sealed off the area around the compound, in the army garrison town of Abbottabad, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the capital. Crews with excavators and other heavy machinery toppled the concrete perimeter wall and began tearing down the three-story house in which Bin Laden was shot dead on the top floor, said Altaf Khan, whose home is about 200 meters (219 yards) from the compound.
Almost 10 months after Bin Laden’s death, the army’s failure to detect Bin Laden or the U.S. attack deep inside Pakistani territory remains an embarrassment, said Rashid Khan, a professor of international relations at the University of Sargodha in central Pakistan. “The military probably wants to remove this symbol of their humiliation and the most glaring example of their intelligence failure,” he said in a phone interview.
“If it was allowed to remain intact, it would have continued to attract media attention, which isn’t something the local authorities can handle,” he said.
Staff members at Pakistan’s army press office declined to respond to questions about the demolition, and the office of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
A four-member commission named by Gilani is investigating why the army failed to detect bin Laden’s presence or prevent the U.S. attack.
U.S.-Pakistani relations remain strained because of the raid and the accusations that followed between officials of the two governments. American officials, including the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, accused Pakistan’s army of keeping contacts with violent Islamic militant groups such as Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, which is fighting U.S.-led troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
Ties between the countries suffered a further setback when U.S. helicopters killed 26 Pakistani troops on Nov. 25 near the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan retaliated by closing supply routes for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
In Abbottabad, the security forces and demolition crew began destroying bin Laden’s 1.5-acre compound yesterday evening, working through the night under bright lights, said Khan. The compound had dwarfed the nearby houses, its perimeter walls, of unpainted concrete streaked with black mold, rising as high as 3.3 meters (11 feet).
“I saw today that the destruction of the boundary walls was complete and now they are working on the main building,” Khan said in a phone interview.
The main building was about three-quarters destroyed by this evening, television footage showed.
The demolition is complicated by the compound’s military-style construction, notably its heavy use of steel reinforcement rods in the compound’s walls, said Gauhar Ali, an Abbottabad civil engineer who last year inspected the structure.
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