RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AP) — Osama bin Laden spent his last weeks in a house divided, amid wives riven by suspicions. On the top floor, sharing his bedroom, was his youngest wife and favorite. The trouble came when his eldest wife showed up and moved into the bedroom on the floor below.
Others in the family, crammed into the three-story villa compound where bin Laden would eventually be killed in a May 2 U.S. raid, were convinced that the eldest wife intended to betray the al-Qaida leader.
The picture of bin Laden’s life in the Abbottabad compound comes from Brig. Shaukat Qadir, a retired Pakistani army officer who spent months researching the events and says he was given rare access to transcripts of Pakistani intelligence’s interrogation of bin Laden’s youngest wife, who was detained in the raid.
Qadir was also given rare entry into the villa, which was sealed after the raid and demolished last month. Pictures he took, which he allowed The Associated Press to see, showed the villa’s main staircase, splattered with blood. Other pictures show windows protected by iron grills and the 20-foot high walls around the villa.
Qadir’s research gives one of the most extensive descriptions of the arrangements in bin Laden’s hideout when U.S. SEAL commandos stormed in, killing bin Laden and four others. His account is based on accounts by an official of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency who escorted him on a tour of the villa, the interrogation transcription he was allowed to read, and interviews with other ISI officials and al-Qaida-linked militants and tribesmen in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.
The compound where bin Laden lived since mid-2005 was a crowded place, with 28 residents — including bin Laden, his three wives, eight of his children and five of his grandchildren. The bin Laden children ranged in age from his 24-year-old son Khaled, who was killed in the raid, to a 3-year-old born during their time in Abbottabad. Bin Laden’s courier, the courier’s brother and their wives and children also lived in the compound.
The 54-year-old bin Laden himself seemed aged beyond his years, with suspected kidney or stomach diseases, and there were worries over his mental health, Qadir said he was told by ISI officials and an al-Qaida member he interviewed in the border regions.
Bin Laden lived and died on the third floor. One room he shared with his youngest wife, Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, a Yemeni who was 19 when she married the al-Qaida leader in 1999. Another wife, Siham Saber, lived in another room on the same floor that also served as a computer room, Qadir told AP.
The arrival of his eldest wife, Saudi-born Khairiah Saber, in early 2011 stirred up the household, Amal said in her ISI interrogation, according to Qadir.
There was already bad blood between Khairiah, who married bin Laden in the late 1980s, and Amal because of bin Laden’s favoritism for the younger Yemeni woman, Qadir said he was told by tribal leaders who knew the family.
Even ISI officials who questioned Khairiah after the raid were daunted by her.
“She is so aggressive that she borders on being intimidating,” Qadir said he was told by an ISI interrogator.
Amal stayed close to bin Laden as he fled Afghanistan into Pakistan following the 2001 U.S. invasion. She took an active role in arranging protection for him and bin Laden wanted her by his side, the tribal leaders told Qadir.
Khairiah fled Afghanistan in 2001 into Iran along with other bin Laden relatives and al-Qaida figures. She and others were held under house arrest in Iran until 2010, when Tehran let them leave in a swap for an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Pakistan’s frontier city of Peshawar.
Khairiah showed up at Abbottabad in February or March 2011 and moved into the villa’s second floor, Amal told her interrogators.
Khalid, bin Laden’s son with Siham, was suspicious, according to Amal’s account. He repeatedly asked Khairiah why she had come. At one point, she told him, “I have one final duty to perform for my husband.” Khalid immediately told his father what she had said and warned that she intended to betray him.
Amal, who shared Khalid’s fears, said bin Laden was also suspicious but was unconcerned, acting as if fate would decide, according to Qadir’s recounting of the interrogation transcript.
There is no evidence Khairiah had any role in bin Laden’s end. Accounts by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials since the May 2 raid have made no mention of her. Instead, U.S. officials have said the courier inadvertently led the CIA to the Abbottabad villa after they uncovered him in a monitored phone call.
The courier, a Pakistani known by his pseudonym Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, lived with his wife and four children on the villa’s first floor. His brother, his wife and three children lived in a guest house in the compound. Al-Kuwaiti, his brother and the brother’s wife were killed in the raid.
Bin Laden had two marriages before Khairiah that ended in divorce and had more than 20 children with his various wives.
Amal gave her interrogators details on bin Laden’s movements after fleeing Afghanistan. Her account underscored that bin Laden did not stay long in Pakistan’s tribal-run regions on the border where the United States long presumed he was holed up.
She and bin Laden hid for several months in 2002 in Salman Talab, a suburb of Kohat, a northwest Pakistani border town. There bin Laden was visited at least once by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind arrested in Rawalpindi on March 1, 2003.
Amal said they moved constantly to avoid being spotted for several months in South Waziristan, a border region. In 2004, she and other family members went to Shangla, a town in the Swat Valley, 80 miles (128 kilometers) northwest of the capital Islamabad. Bin Laden joined them by doubling back through Afghanistan because it was feared he could be identified if he crossed Pakistan.
Later in 2004, they moved to Haripur, only 20 miles (33 kilometers) from Islamabad, according to the interrogation transcripts. After several months there, they moved in the summer of 2005 to the villa in Abbottabad, a town 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the capital and home to a large military base.
ISI officials contacted by the AP refused to comment on Qadir’s account. The wives and bin Laden family members who were in the villa during the raid remain in Pakistani custody.
Qadir, a 35-year veteran and now a security consultant, took it upon himself to research what happened in the May 2 raid. He relied on contacts in the ISI and in the border regions where he was long based.
An old friend who is a brigadier in the ISI allowed Qadir to read the transcripts of the interrogations of Amal. Qadir asked that the ISI brigadier not be identified because the information remains classified.
Qadir said he was allowed to visit the villa four times, most recently in November. He described the bin Laden bedroom, saying one wall was peppered with bulletholes and splattered with blood, which his ISI escort told him was from Amal, who was shot in the leg during the raid. There was also blood on the ceiling, which Qadir presumed was from bin Laden, who was shot through the eye.
Qadir said he was struck by the lack of defenses — no basement, no warning system, no escape routes.
“It was a death trap if it were ever attacked.”
Kathy Gannon is The AP Special Correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan. She can be reached on www.twitter.com/kathygannon
More Related Stories
- El Salvador court delays ruling on abortion case while woman's life hangs in the balance
- UK officials: Radical Islam behind London attack
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
- London machete attack could be linked to terrorism
- Conservative group blames military sexual assault on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" repeal
- Lois Lerner, IRS disaster
- Donald Rumsfeld worried that marriage equality will lead to polygamy
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- San Francisco Giant Jeremy Affeldt apologizes for homophobic past
- 9-year-old slams Rahm over Chicago schools
- Stockholm riots rage for third day
- Wall Street firm's "Golden Pitchbook" is totally sexist, full of lies
- Must-see morning clip: Toronto's eccentric and allegedly crack-smoking mayor
- Federal court strikes down Arizona abortion ban
- Jodi Arias: I deserve a second chance
- Oklahoma residents return home to pick up the pieces
- Florida man with connection to Tsarnaev killed by FBI
- FBI identifies 5 Benghazi suspects
- Here come the tornado truthers. Already
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Moore officials: Funds for "safe rooms" were held up by red tape
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11