What Osama bin Laden Was Up to for the Past Nine Years

A flock of sheep meanders past the hideout of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was killed by US Special Forces in a ground operation early May 2, in Abbottabad on May 4, 2011.  Pakistan stepped up security in the neighbourhood where Osama bin Laden was killed by US commandos, sealing off the area after crowds had flocked to his one-time villa home. Police closed the Bilal suburb of the relatively well-off garrison town of Abbottabad to media and public, where the Al-Qaeda chief had been living in secrecy in a compound surrounded by towering outer walls.   AFP PHOTO/ AAMIR QURESHI (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo: Warrick Page/2011 Warrick Page

Osama bin Laden's nine years in Pakistan after 9/11 could've been a lot worse — and that's not even counting the marijuana plants in the backyard of his Abbottabad compound. According to testimony obtained by the Times given by his youngest wife, Amal Ahmad Abdul Fateh, bin Laden lived in five safe houses and fathered four children, two of whom were born in government hospitals. One bin Laden family safe house was located in the "picturesque" town of Swat in the mountains of northwest Pakistan — hardly the "hole" Dubya swore he'd smoke bin Laden out of. 

Fateh, 30, was shot in the leg during the raid in Abbottabad last May. After marrying bin Laden in 2000, Fateh delivered two of their four children in government hospitals. Fateh stayed in the hospital for two or three hours after giving birth and gave fake identity documents to the hospital's staff.

Fateh's testimony shows how close American troops came to catching bin Laden in 2005. Military helicopters flew over bin Laden's hideout in late 2005, bringing aid to those wounded in a major earthquake in northern Pakistan. "Meanwhile," the Times reminds us, "Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, then a close ally of the Bush administration, repeatedly asserted that Bin Laden was sheltering across the border inside Afghanistan."

Bin Laden's three widows, including Fateh, are under house arrest in Islamabad.