Shafiq, a local who was worried about reprisal, says he saw a large fleet of helicopters firing upon the compound. He heard two small blasts, then a huge explosion followed by a helicopter crashing and engulfing the area in flames.
Another resident, Muhammad Javed, says he and other residents were oblivious to Bin Laden’s presence.
“For weeks, we did not see anybody coming out or going inside the huge compound,” says Mr. Javed. “We only knew that two Afghans named Arshad and Tariq were living there."
While high walls and a system of couriers kept bin Laden's presence secret from residents, fooling the military and intelligence establishments is another matter.
“I think it is a failure of our intelligence – the fact that he can hang around in Abbottabad for so long and we didn’t know,” says Zafar Hillay, a former diplomat.
But Ramesh Chopra, a former chief of Indian military intelligence who was born in Abbottabad, says any military conducts sweeps of areas and would know its own backyard. For him, it’s clear bin Laden was protected by elements of Pakistan’s establishment.
“If I were the [Pakistani intelligence] chief, I wouldn’t put Osama bin Laden there. I wouldn’t be so arrogant and foolish,” says Mr. Chopra. “A safehouse is supposed to be decrepit and in an isolated place.”
Pictures of bin Laden’s bloodied and shattered face were broadcast on Pakistani television, though their authenticity could not be verified. Within hours of the pictures circulating, the US announced it had buried the body at sea in accordance with Muslim rules.