While facts are still sketchy on how the U.S. Navy SEAL team assaulted the compound and killed Osama bin Laden, here is a time line based on what we know so far. During his address to the nation last night, President Barack Obama said that he had some five National Security meetings concerning the possibility that bin Laden was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad, about 62 miles north of Pakistani capitol Islamabad. While Obama said that they began to get actionable intelligence in August of 2010, the picture is forming that important pieces of data began putting us on Osama bin Laden’s trail some four years ago.

US Navy SEAL

In 2005, the compound was custom built in Abbottabad, which covered about an acre of land, at a cost of about $1 million dollars. The neighborhood was an affluent one, with many retired Pakistan military and other public officials living nearby. The compound apparently had a wall around it varying from 12 to 18 feet in height and topped off by razor wire.. The structure was at least eight times larger than any other homes in the area. Another interesting feature is that the compound had no telephone lines nor even any TV or Internet cables, so the place had no electronic footprint.

We have learned before that after stories were published about how the United States had been monitoring satellite telephone traffic by bin Laden, he had ceased using such devices. He was even careful where he filmed any video messages after a U.S. geologist had apparently identified a location in a video shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

Early take-downs and arrests of key Al Qaeda members, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, also known as KSM, as well as Salim Ahmed Hamdan, bin Laden′s chauffeur, captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan respectively provided important clues. During interrogations at GITMO, the holding facility at Guantanamo Bay, U.S. intelligence learned that bin Laden began using a network of trusted couriers. About four years ago, based on interrogations, the name of one courier was learned. About two years ago, a Libyan courier for Al Qaeda was captured and interrogated at GITMO. This is when U.S. Intelligence learned that the courier had a brother and both men were working closely with bin Laden.

During the past two years, much of the CIA efforts in Pakistan were spent on tracking down these two brothers. The compound in Abbottabad was apparently in their name. At least three families lived in the compound. Sometime around August-September, 2010, the CIA identified the compound using satellite photo reconnaissance. A series of National Security meetings was held to discuss the intelligence and what action to take? In March, 2011, an earlier plan to use B-2 stealth bombers to destroy the compound was rejected as there would be no definite evidence. Even at this point, there was no direct evidence that bin Laden was even there. A plan to use Navy SEALs was then approved. A replica of the compound was then built for training.

Sometime last week, all of the pieces of the operation were in place. On Friday, April 29, President Obama signed off and approved for the mission to proceed. Late Saturday night in Afghanistan, about 40 men boarded two CH-47 Chinook helicopters. Around 1am, a local resident in Abbottabad, Sohiaib Athar, sent the Tweet heard round the world on Twitter, “@ReallyVirtual: Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am (is rare event).” Later, he tweeted again, “Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter.”

The helicopters hovered above the compound and quickly drew fire from one or more armed guards. About 24 Navy SEALs rappelled down rope lines into the compound. Athar then tweeted “huge windows shaking bang”. A fierce firefight broke out inside the compound. The two brother-couriers were killed, along with an older son of bin Laden, Osama bin Laden himself, and a woman who was used as a human shield. Osama bin laden was cornered in his bedroom and refused to surrender. He apparently reached for a gun, or may have even fired one. A Navy SEAL double-tapped bin Laden with two shots to his head, killing him instantly.

At some point, one of the helicopters developed either mechanical trouble or was hit by ground fire and was forced to land. The SEAL team spent about 40 minutes on the ground, collecting the body of the man believed to be Osama bin Laden, as well as searching for any documents, intelligence, etc. The SEAL team boarded the second helicopter with bin Laden’s body and departed for Afghanistan. Explosives were used to destroy the damaged helicopter.

Around 3:50pm EDT, the White House was notified that the operation had been completed and that Osama bin Laden was dead. Around 7pm, further reports were given to President Barack Obama that the body was identified as bin Laden using DNA evidence. White House and National Security staff then began notifying members of Congress, as well as the Pakistan government about the raid. Around 10:30pm Sunday night, news of the raid began spreading worldwide and President Obama made it official during his address to the nation at 11:37pm EDT. U.S. Navy SEALs had successfully raided the compound in Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden. The most recent news is that bin Laden has been buried at sea, in accordance with Islamic law within 24 hours of his death. A report that his body was offered to the Saudis for burial is unconfirmed. Many speculate that the burial at sea was to prevent Osama bin Laden′s grave from becoming a shrine.

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