Osama bin Laden was not hiding in a cave, as was popularly imagined, but a mansion just two hours from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. How did we find him there? After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. began gathering intelligence on bin Laden’s couriers. Six years later, in 2007, the U.S. learned the name of one man of particular interest; when they found his base of operations in Abbottabad in August 2010, “we were shocked,” one security official tells MSNBC. It was a mansion roughly eight times larger than any other home in the area, surrounded by 12 foot by 18 foot walls, no Internet or telephone service, and no windows facing the road. Residents there burned their trash. It was “custom built to hide someone of significance,” and intelligence soon revealed that, in addition to the courier and his brother, a third family was living there that matched the profile of bin Laden’s family. This conclusion was reached in February, and President Obama held five meetings in March to plan for the operation before giving the order on Friday.
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