As 9/11 anniversary nears, a visit to Abbottabad

The compound where it is believed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011.
AP Photo/Anjum Naveed

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan - Four months after U.S. Navy SEALs tracked and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's northern city of Abbottabad, Taj Khan eagerly disputes the claim as "nothing but a fabricated story."

As Pakistanis across the country brace for possible terror attacks in the days leading up to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York, residents of Abbottabad such as Khan are still caught in disbelief.

"The Americans wanted to create a big facade and give themselves a prize ahead of the 9/11 anniversary, so they came up with Osama bin Laden. Did anyone see Osama bin Laden's corpse?" asks Khan, a taxi driver who spoke to CBS News and regularly commutes from parts of Abbottabad to Bilal town - the neighborhood where bin Laden spent his last days hiding in a towering mansion.

Khan is among those who still question the claim of bin Laden's discovery in Abbottabad, in part because the terrorist leader's mortal remains were buried at sea and without a public funeral.

Complete coverage: 9/11 anniversary

Bilal town, one of Abbottabad's sleepiest neighborhoods, was thrust into the global spotlight when the hunt for the world's most wanted terrorist ended there on May 2. The sudden global interest in Abbottabad stood in sharp contrast to its image as the home of the Pakistan military.

Establishments ranging from the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy, or PMA, which has trained generations of Pakistan's army officers, to several army training institutions including the center for medical services are all based in the city.

Since the bin Laden raid, a number of tourists - both Pakistani and western - have visited the neighborhood and some have even tried to unsuccessfully enter bin Laden's former compound. The mansion has been sealed by Pakistan's army and is tightly guarded around the clock.

Neighbors living nearby vividly recall the commotion which surrounded them on the night between the 1st and 2nd of May this year. "It was after midnight when the sound of a low flying helicopter woke me up. Shortly after the helicopter swooped above us, there was a good half hour of shooting" says Dilawar Jan, an Abbottabad shopkeeper who spoke to CBS News.

Jan was visiting a friends' home on the night of the U.S. raid, located about 300 meters from bin Laden's mansion. "Once the helicopters flew out of here after the raid and Pakistan's army troops came to encircle the big house, only then did we know exactly what was going on," he remembers.

Away from the neighborhood, many in Abbottabad will view the 9/11 anniversary with a deep sense of scepticism. In the decade since the New York attacks, which were followed by a U.S.-backed invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan has borne the brunt of scores of terrorist attacks.

On Wednesday (Sept. 7) at least 23 people, including the wife of a senior Pakistani military officer, were killed in two terrorist attacks in the north western city of Quetta. A Pakistani intelligence official told CBS News that the attacks were in retaliation for the news on Monday, revealing the capture of Sheikh Yunis Al-Mauritani, a prominent al Qaeda militant, in a joint Pakistan-U.S. intelligence raid outside Quetta.

Sagheer ul-Mulk, an Abbottabad hotel waiter, warns that Pakistan will continue to live with the consequences of the 9/11 attacks, sharing a popularly held view. "The Americans will receive the anniversary of 9/11 by remembering those who were killed in New York, ten years ago. For Pakistan, 9/11 is a continuing nightmare. We have one attack after another, reminding us that we are not safe" ul-Mulk told CBS News.

While Khan, the taxi driver, disputes the bin Laden claim, he accepts that the 9/11 attacks must not be forgotten. "Whether it is in America or in Pakistan, innocent blood is innocent blood" he told CBS News. "Innocent blood should never be spilled."

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