Neighbors Didn't Question Pakistani Compound

May 3, 2011



The compound where Osama bin Laden was killed has been sealed off since yesterday by Pakistani troops. News reporters were kept several hundred yards from the building until just a short time ago.

NPR's Julie McCarthy managed to reach the outer perimeter of the compound. After spending the day speaking with neighbors, she joins us now.

Julie, can you tell us what you're seeing?

JULIE MCCARTHY: As I speak, I can actually reach out and touch the wall that surrounds this vast piece of property. The wall I'm looking at, Linda, stands about 18 feet high. It's fortified by another layer of security, a razor wire fence about two feet high. There are sensor lights. There looks to be towers that are actually supplying a lot of electricity to this house.

Nothing around here really looks this fortified, Linda. And interestingly, it's also surrounded by a lot of agricultural area. In fact, there seems to be a large garden inside these premises. On the perimeter there is a huge cabbage patch. And that cabbage patch, we found what could possibly be debris from the helicopter that crashed; the long cylinder that was laying in the mud in amongst some broken cabbages.

WERTHEIMER: Weren't the neighbors curious about who was in there?

MCCARTHY: It's really interesting, Linda. You ask them and they say, you know, we were curious. But there's also a culture here that if someone doesn't engage, you don't ostracize. You don't keep pressing with questions. You just let them be. Occasionally some children would come out but no one ever engaged the public. And people said wait a minute, look at the size of the house, look at the security of that house - that has to be a rich man who lives there. And then there's been speculation went even further and they said it's got to be somebody who may have a tribal enmity, and therefore requires all this intense fortification.

WERTHEIMER: Do we know who owned it, the compound?

MCCARTHY: What we're hearing is so far, the bead is being drawn back to one of the couriers who had been closely working with Osama bin Laden for years. In fact, he and his brother were in this compound on early Monday night when the Americans moved in here, and were reported to have been killed along with them.

WERTHEIMER: Do you have any sense of what happened to other people who were in the compound, people who survived the raid?

MCCARTHY: The neighbors who were sort of watching this thing unfold - the night of the operation, they said after the first explosion they heard a lot of screaming that sounded like children. That was followed by a second explosion. And the neighbors reported after that they heard no more screaming.

What has become of those people is not clear. We do know, senior U.S. officials are saying four people died along with Osama bin Laden. A woman was injured, several women and several children were taken away. There's speculation that they are in Islamabad now. I cannot confirm that from here.

WERTHEIMER: We've been talking to NPR's Julie McCarthy. She's just outside of Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

Thanks very much, Julie.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.