“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.
Conflicting reports have emerged about the level of Pakistani knowledge and cooperation in the strike against bin Laden.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official claimed to have been aware of the operation, though Pakistani forces were not directly involved, according to Reuters. At the very least, the entry of US Special Operation Forces deep inside Pakistani territory suggests a level of coordination with Pakistani authorities.
President Obama made no mention of a joint operation. But he did offer a vague nod to Pakistani help: “Our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.”