Osama bin Laden typically wore a cowboy hat while tending his garden. Its broad brim obscured his features from the view of pesky eyes or satellite cameras that might blow his cover while he was hiding out in Pakistan, according to a report first published widely in Pakistani media.
The 337-page leaked report details the domestic life of one of the world’s most wanted men in his final days of life. It also bashes Pakistani authorities for failing to keep the al Qaeda leader out of the country, and for failing to prevent the U.S. raid by Navy SEALs that killed him in May 2011.
The report bears the names of a former top diplomat, a supreme court justice and former officers of the military and police. A senior government official who was closely associated with the commission that produced the report confirmed its authenticity to CNN. Citing a news piece by Al Jazeera, the first to report the story, the official said the documents being discussed in the news are part of a report that was submitted to the prime minister’s office.
The famous terrorist’s life was speckled with quirky measures designed to keep him under the radar, the report said.
Al Qaeda’s No. 1 spent lots of time doting on his some dozen children and grandchildren in the six years he spent in his walled compound in the city of Abbottabad, said terror expert Peter Bergen, commenting on the report.
They could not pass time watching TV or surfing online, because bin Laden had no Internet connection and no satellite television hook-up. He also didn’t have a phone line, all measures to avoid detection.
For the same reason, the children were not allowed to play with other kids in the neighborhood. They spent the bulk of their lives within the compound’s walls.
When bin Laden was not personally giving them religious instruction, he took them out into the yard. He would award them prizes if they grew particularly good vegetables in the garden.
Bin Laden fled to Pakistan a month after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, moving from the south to the north and then hopping from town to town before landing in Abbottabad in 2005.
While he was on the run, one of his wives gave birth four times and had to be taken to local hospitals, but it was obvious that she was not from the region. She spoke Arabic instead of Urdu, Pakistan’s official language.
Bin Laden’s family feared this might raise suspicions. So, they told doctors she was deaf and mute.
While on the run in the restive tribal region of the Swat Valley, bin Laden shaved off his recognizable beard, according to the report. Men helping him told others not to ask any questions about the tall stranger, who spoke Arabic.