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Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's that about Abbottabad? North Pakistan city was Obama's last stand

Did President Obama say Obama was killed in Abottabad, Pakistan?

If so, that's a fair ways in from the Afghanistan border, about 200 kilometres, and about 350 kilometres from Kabul. It's situated about 60 km north of Islamabad, though it looks more like about 75 or 80 km by road.

Abbottabad is a city in northern Pakistan, located in the Hazara region/division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, formerly NWFP. The city is situated in the Orash Valley, 150 km north of Islamabad and 200 km east of Peshawar at an altitude of 4,120 feet (1,260 m). The city is well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments. It remains a major hub for tourism of regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir in the summer.

Wikipedia confirms Obama said Osama Bin Laden was killed in Abbottabad

According to Wikipedia, on May 1, 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad.

Have a look at this story from The News International, posted 3 hours ago. It appears to be either a misunderstanding of the Bin Laden takedown, or deliberate misinformation planted so as not to rile up the locals as to what was going on:

ABBOTTABAD: Three loud blasts were heard near the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul Road late Sunday night and a military helicopter also crashed. Sources told Geo News that heavy firing was heard in the area before the chopper crashed.

Windowpanes of the nearby buildings and houses were smashed due to the intensity of the blasts, the sources said. Eyewitnesses said first sound of heavy firing was heard and then there was a huge blast. Fire erupted at the scene of the occurrence and according to latest reports police and fire brigade teams were rushing towards the blast scene. Security forces cordoned off the entire area and military helicopters were also hovering over the area.

Chopper crashes, 3 blasts heard in Abbottabad, Pakistan

Now, if the story above actually refers to the firefight during Bin Laden's last stand, then these are the coordinates for where the US Navy Seals helicopter operation took place:

Kakul Rd, Abbottābad, Abbottabad, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Click on the Google map, then click on Satellite View (top right) and you can see the layout of Abbotabad, and note that a golf course (Abbotabad Golf Club!) takes up much of the central Abbottabad real estate.

Note: The coordinates appear to be based on a local military base, so that's probably not where Bin Laden's compound was, although the timing of the reported attack seems curious (was it retaliation for cooperating with Americans??). In any case, opt for the Google satellite view and you can see many side roads through the mountains, so the compound could be both isolated and be within a few minutes drive of Abottabad. wonder if Bin Laden ever played at Abbottabad Golf Club?

Again according to wikipedia, town of Abbottabad in British India was the headquarters of the then Hazara district, and was named after Major James Abbott who founded the town and district in January 1853 after the annexation of the Punjab. He remained the first Deputy Commissioner of the Hazara district between 1849 until April 1853. Major Abbott is noted for having written a poem titled "Abbottabad", prior to his departure back to Britain, in which he wrote of his fondness for the town and his sadness at having to leave it. Abbottabad became and is still an important military cantonment and sanatorium, being the headquarters of a brigade in the Second Division of the Northern Army Corps.

The garrison consisted of four battalions of native infantry (Gurkhas and Frontier Force) and four native mountain batteries. In 1901 the population of the town and cantonment was 7764[4] and the income averaged around Rs. 14,900. This increased to Rs. 22,300 in 1903, chiefly derived from octroi. During this time chief public institutions were built such as the Albert Victor unaided Anglo-Vernacular High School, the Municipal Anglo-Vernacular High School and the Government dispensary.

In 1911 the population had risen to 11,506 and the town also contained four battalions of Gurkhas. In June 1948, the British Red Cross opened a hospital in Abbottabad to deal with thousands of patients who were being brought in from the Kashmir fighting areas. On the October 8th, 2005 Abbottabad was devastated by the Kashmir earthquake. Although most of Abbottabad survived, many old buildings were destroyed or damaged

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