ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan — The sprawling compound where Osama bin Laden sheltered before his death stood out in its middle-class neighborhood on the edges of this scenic city, home to a large Pakistani military base and a military academy.
The compound is about eight times the size of most homes in the area and was surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire. Nearby residents noticed that few people ever ventured out of the house, and although a senior Obama administration official said the property was valued at about $1 million, no telephone lines ran into the compound.
Still, nearby residents in the area called Bilal Town, where many retired and serving military officials live, said they were not suspicious of the house’s occupants and never suspected a high-level militant leader might be living there.
Some said they assumed the occupants mainly kept to themselves because they were religious, although even in most devout Pakistani families, men regularly socialize with other men.
Jibran Khan, 23, who lives near Bilal Town, said he had seen the huge house several times and never imagined that bin Laden would be hiding there, assuming that a wealthy person had simply decided to settle on the large piece of property with a view of the hills that surround the town.
Khan said he had never met the people who lived in the house but knew others who did. “A friend told me that some tall, bearded men lived in the house who said they had come to Abbottabad from Peshawar some years ago due to some enmity.”
But he said his friend, who ran into the men at a local bakery, told him they appeared to be Pakistanis and were always very courteous.
On Monday, the Pakistan army put up barricades to block access to all roads and alleys that lead to the house and barred journalists from going near it.
The proximity of the house to the military academy, which is about a third of a mile away, raised questions about whether Pakistani intelligence agents or military officials knew bin Laden was there.