Osama attended dinner in Waziristan a year before his death

Osama bin Laden
Islamabad, May 2: Contrary to the perception that Osama bin Laden lived in seclusion for nearly five years in Pakistan's Abbottabad, he travelled to the restive Waziristan region to attend a dinner about a year before he was killed.

The 54-year-old al-Qaeda chief was the surprise guest at a dinner hosted by two men on the fringes of the Waziristan region late one night in the summer of 2010, BBC reported today.

Half a dozen men of a tribal family had been alerted weeks earlier about the arrival of a guest whose identity they didn't know. The tribesmen were told about the visit by someone they described as an "important person".

They were not given any names and the exact time of the guest's arrival was conveyed to them just a few hours in advance, the report said. At about 11 pm, when the village around them was in deep sleep, a dozen SUVs arrived.

"A dozen big four-wheel drive jeeps drove into the compound... They seemed to converge from different directions," said one unnamed elder of the tribal family.

One of the SUVs drove up to the veranda and from its back "emerged a tall and frail-looking man" wearing flowing robes and a white turban.

"The waiting men couldn't believe their eyes. Standing before them was none other than Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man in the world," the report said.

"We were dumb-struck. He was the last person we'd expected to turn up at our doorstep," the elder said. Bin Laden stood beside the vehicle for a while, shaking hands. The elder said he kissed Bin Laden's hand and pressed it against his eyes in a gesture of reverence.

Then, putting his hand lightly on the shoulder of one of his assistants, Bin Laden walked into a room set up for him and only a couple of his men kept him company. The dinner was arranged exactly a year before Bin Laden was killed in an operation by US Navy SEALS in Abbottabad, located 300 km to the northeast of the compound where he was hosted by the tribesmen.

BBC reporter M Ilyas Khan said he learnt of Bin Laden's visit after one of his former hosts told close friends about the dinner.

"After some persuasion, I was able to speak to two of the men who'd met Bin Laden on that occasion. Both requested that their names and locality be kept secret," Khan reported.

During the three hours Bin Laden spent with them, they said he offered prayers, rested, and ate the lamb chops, chicken curry and rice they'd prepared for him and his entourage.

During that time, his hosts were not allowed to leave the compound or let anyone in. Armed men took positions at the gate, along the walls and on the roof.

There was a slight commotion among the guards when one of the hosts requested that his 85-year-old father be allowed to see Bin Laden. "Consider this to be his dying wish," the host pleaded.

The message was passed to Bin Laden, who agreed to see the old man. Four armed men escorted the son home to fetch his father. The old man was only told about Bin Laden's presence once they reached the compound.

The old man spent 10 minutes with Bin Laden, pouring out his admiration and offering prayers for him. The old man also offered time-tested advice on tribal warfare, all in Pashto, which Bin Laden apparently did not understand.

This brought smiles to the faces of Bin Laden's hosts and guards. Bin Laden and his men left as they had come, with the SUVs leaving the compound and heading out in different directions. This gave the hosts little chance to determine which way Bin Laden's vehicle went.

Following Bin Laden's death, Pakistani and US officials insisted that he had lived in total seclusion for nearly five years, without leaving his Abbottabad compound.


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