Sohaib Athar on Twitter fame after bin Laden raid (Q&A)

Sohaib Athar
Sohaib Athar
Sohaib Athar

As U.S. special forces assaulted Osama bin Laden's walled compound in Pakistan, a Twitter user was already recording a rough outline of the events to come.

Sohaib Athar, who describes himself as a 33-year old programmer and consultant "taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops," happened to be staying up late at the time. And, from an account called Really Virtual, he live-blogged what he heard.

Athar's real-time dispatches and self-effacing followups have transformed him an instant online celebrity. He's received at least one marriage proposal -- through Twitter, of course -- requests for bin Laden-related "souvenirs," and appears to have become Pakistan's first Twitter user to surpass 100,000 followers.

CNET interviewed Athar this afternoon about his instant fame, the state of affairs in Abbottabad, and his plans for another tech startup.

Some other questions we didn't ask, about whether he knew bin Laden was living there (he didn't), are answered in a FAQ on his Web site. Below is a transcript, lightly edited for space. (See list of related CNET stories.)


Q: You said in your FAQ that nobody has contacted you from any governmental agency. Is that still the case?

Athar: Yes. No contact from the Army, intelligence (ISI), police, government, etc. Unless it was undercover.

Q: How many requests for interviews have you had so far? just dozens, or hundreds?

Athar: I haven't really counted them yet, but there are still 120+ unread requests in my mailbox at the moment from today alone. Athar: I have been following CNET for a few years now -- Download.com has been helpful too, so prioritized you.

Q: Thanks! The folks at Download.com sit about 10 meters down the hall from me, so I'll pass along your kind words to them... What have been the worst distortions in the media? That Abbottabad is a close-in suburb of Islamabad? There must be something more interesting than that that I've missed...

Athar: Yeah, that was only the initial distortion. There are many small things that are being reported either incorrectly or incompletely -- if I only talk about my own experience and how it is being quoted, there are many inconsistencies. So I can only imagine what kind of facts are being reported regarding the actual incident itself

Q: The "fact" that you watched the operation go down next door rather than heard it from a few kilometers away?

Athar: Yeah, there's that one -- I am actually 2.5 kilometers away.

Read the complete interview at CNET News

  • Declan McCullagh On Twitter»

    Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

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