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Bin Laden Raid Targeted Pakistani Town


It's special coverage, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Osama bin Laden was killed yesterday in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. Instead of living in a cave in the tribal region of Pakistan, he was living in a large, walled compound. Joining us now from Abbottabad is NPR's Julie McCarthy.

Good morning.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Tell us about the city. I know you've just - more or less just arrived there.

MCCARTHY: Well, actually, Abbottabad is quite a peaceful, beautiful place. It's an old hill town that was founded by the British back in the colonial area - in the area. And they pride themselves on their peace.

In fact, Renee, I'm standing, and I am looking at the compound. The compound is about - maybe 300 yards from where I am standing. And there is a red - sort of material that has cordoned off the compound that was the scene of this extraordinary operation last night and the - that terrified, basically, this area.

The houses are large. They have large plots here. It's kind of like a wealthy suburb of Abbottabad. And people who allowed me, actually, into their house, snuck me into their bathroom so I could stand up and see a gander - get a gander of the compound because the military has cordoned this off, and they're not allowing the media anywhere near this place.

But they spoke about being absolutely terrified by the helicopters - flew very low - and then, of course, the explosions that followed when the helicopter crashed and then was actually blown up by the Americans in this raid.

MONTAGNE: And Julie, this is a city where there's a military facility, also a military compound. What does that suggest about his presence there?

MCCARTHY: Well, it suggests that either the Pakistanis may have been aware of something, may have tipped off - originally provided some sort of tip to the Americans, or sat on things or was ignorant of it. It could be a combination of all the - or D, none of the above - or E, all of the above.

But it is a - when you come to this town, you are struck by the absolute presence of the military - military hospitals, military schools, military academies. It's basically, you know, it's a military town. It's a tourist town. As I said, it's a hill town surrounded by mountains. And there's beautiful poplar gardens in front of me. And people, you know - just-tilled land, and it's springtime, and things are beginning to sprout. It's a really lovely place.

And I think, you know, Renee, if you make the decision, gee, maybe we should hide in plain sight where no one would ever expect us to be, you just might come to Abbottabad.

MONTAGNE: Well, let me get a general...

MCCARTHY: Because the military is all over the place.

MONTAGNE: Right. Right.

Can you give us a general idea of what the response in Pakistan has been about - at the news of the death of bin Laden?

MCCARTHY: Right. Very interesting response here. They basically said: Look, he's dead. It's a good thing. It helps eradicate one part of the global terrorism that has been at the root of so much of Pakistan's problems.

And then they quickly add: America, mission accomplished. Now, what you need to be thinking about is ending - you and the Western allies - your presence in Afghanistan, and no longer conducting any sort of operations in Pakistan.

As much as people might have wanted to see the demise of Osama bin Laden here, they view what happened here last night, in this raid, as a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan. It's pretty clear, as the facts are coming out, that this - that the Pakistanis were not involved in this.

MONTAGNE: Well, just the...

MCCARTHY: A senior U.S. official said no one was told, including the Pakistanis, until after the fact.

MONTAGNE: Julie, thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: We've been talking to NPR's Julie McCarthy, who is in Pakistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.