Pakistan’s army engineers on Saturday began demolishing the former home of Osama bin Laden, after authorities decided to end prospects of the location “becoming a monument” to the world’s most hunted terrorist, a senior Pakistani government official told CBS News.
Though Pakistani media reported Saturday evening that the demolition had begun after backhoes and bulldozers were brought to the site, there was no official confirmation from the government.
But the government official who spoke to CBS NEWS on condition that he will not be named because he was not authorized to speak to journalists said, “If the (demolition) plan proceeds on track, the objective is to ensure that the place is flattened before sunrise (Sunday).”
In the past year, bin Laden’s former home in Abbottabad has shot to global prominence after he was tracked and killed by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs on the night between May 1 and 2 last year.
Though the exact circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s stay at his former home are still a matter of debate, some Pakistani and Western officials have said that he may have lived there for up to five years.
It wasn’t immediately clear on Saturday exactly what prompted the Pakistani government to order the demolition now, almost 10 months after bin Laden’s discovery. Abbottabad is primarily a military garrison city, home to a number of institutions belonging to the Pakistan Army, including the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy, or PMA, the main training school for Army officers whose graduates include past and present generals.
Last month, a Pakistani government minister told CBS News on condition of anonymity that the authorities were concerned about bin Laden’s former home attracting widespread interest from the country’s domestic as well as Western media, around the first anniversary of his killing.
“The first anniversary is probably going to revive criticism of Pakistan’s failure in detecting bin Laden,” the minister said. “We want to close this sorry chapter and move on,” adding, “Demolishing Osama bin Laden’s home will be a step to end (the legacy of) his existence in Pakistan.”