The Man That Inadvertently Live-Tweeted Osama Bin Laden’s Death

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Photo: via Sohaib Athar's Twitter

Another world historical event means another rallying cry that Twitter — like it did with the Iranian revolution — just had its "CNN moment." Donald Rumsfeld's former chief of staff, Keith Urbahn, broke the news at 9:45 p.m., almost two hours before President Obama's speech with the tweet:

So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.

In fact, by the time the president spoke, Twitter had already moved onto the types of observations we expect from social media, like noting the strange coincidence that Hitler's death happened exactly 66 years earlier) or creating fake accounts like OsamainHell and GhostOsama. But it might have been the observations of Sohaib Athar, a self-described "IT consultant taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops" and who tweets under the name ReallyVirtual, that actually distinguished Twitter's contribution this time around.

About eighteen hours ago, 3:30 p.m. Eastern time Sunday, Athar first tweeted about the rare event of a helicopter overhead in Abbottabad.


http://twitter.com/#!/ReallyVirtual

It's interesting to watch Athar, who moved to Abbottabad as part of a "'being safe' strategy" try to piece together the significance of what he was hearing outside his window as speculation emerged that the helicopters were foreign.

And like that, a (reluctant) Twitter star was born. As of April 30, Athar had around only 750 followers. Last we checked, it was 41,000 and counting. After quipping, "Interesting, I didn't think my name would trend on twitter before releasing a couple of rock albums and a few award-winning software...," he apologized to the mainstream media for not being able to return all their calls and issued a ":-(" to the replies he couldn't get to before attempting to retire for the night with the tweet:

Bin Laden is dead. I didn't kill him. Please let me sleep now.

[Sohaib Athar/Twitter]
From Abbottabad, Live-Tweeting the Bin Laden Attack [WSJ]
#OBL: @ReallyVirtual becomes viral star after witnessing and tweeting Osama raid [CBS News]