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Bin Laden wore a cowboy hat, and 6 other revelations about his life on the run
A leaked Pakistani report offers intriguing new details about bin Laden's decade in hiding
 
Osama bin Laden is still making headlines.
Osama bin Laden is still making headlines. Getty Images/Jeff Swensen

Osama bin Laden eluded international authorities for nearly a decade in part due to "gross incompetence" at all levels within the Pakistani government and military, according to a thorough, scathing report obtained by Al Jazeera.

The report by the Abbottabad Commission was commissioned in 2011 by the Pakistani government, which then, according to Al Jazeera, tried to bury the report's unflattering findings. The 337-page report, compiled by a panel led by a senior Supreme Court judge, offers a detailed window into bin Laden's life on the run. It is based on interviews with some 200 people, including family members of bin Laden who were with him until his final moments.

Here, 7 interesting revelations from the report:

1. A "collective failure" by Pakistan kept bin Laden hidden
The report pulls no punches in alleging that "gross incompetence" by the Pakistani government and military allowed bin Laden to move unnoticed between at least six different locations within the country after 9/11, including the custom compound in Abbottabad, where he was ultimately killed by U.S. troops, located just one mile from the Pakistan Military Academy.

The report even suggests that elements of the Pakistani government were complicit in helping him avoid capture — an oft-made accusation that has been furiously denied by Pakistani officials.

"The whole episode of the U.S. assassination mission of May 2, 2011, and the Pakistan government's response before, during, and after appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government," the report states.

2. The U.S. committed "an act of war" against Pakistan
The report blasts the U.S., too, for what it claims was an unwarranted act of aggression on sovereign soil. The report says that in carrying out the nighttime raid without first coordinating with or alerting the Pakistani military, the U.S. had shown a "contemptuous disregard for Pakistan's sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity in the arrogant certainty of its unmatched military might."

The report also says that, completely unbeknownst to the Pakistanis, the CIA built a secret support network inside the country that it used to coordinate the attack. The report calls the government's failure to notice that network "a case of nothing less than a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military, and intelligence leadership of the country."

The CIA had such free rein to operate unnoticed, the report says, because the Pakistanis had "closed the book" on finding bin Laden in 2005.

3. Bin Laden met with Khalid Shaikh Mohammad
After barely escaping from the Battle of Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001, bin Laden eventually wound up across the border in Pakistan's tribal regions in mid-2002, according to the report. He later moved to the Swat Valley, where he is believed to have met with Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 attacks.

When the U.S. captured Mohammad in March 2003, bin Laden again relocated, this time to Haripur, a town in northern Pakistan. He rented a house there for two years with his wives and other family members before moving again, this time to his newly built compound in Abbottabad.

4. He had few possessions — save for a cowboy hat
According to bin Laden's relatives who lived with him at the compound, the Al Qaeda chief had scant possessions. He brought only three summer and three winter outfits with him into the compound, along with a jacket and two sweaters.

He did, however, have a cowboy hat, which he wore to thwart "detection from above."

5. He was once stopped by a policeman for speeding
Maryam, the wife of one of bin Laden's top aides, told the commission that bin Laden and others were once stopped by a policeman for speeding while on their way to a bazaar. Yet they "very quickly settled the matter with the policeman," and were allowed to go on their way.

The report does not specify how or why bin Laden and his associates were not detained at that time, or if the policeman even recognized bin Laden.

6. Bin Laden was a home-schooler and gardener
Bin Laden "personally saw to the religious education of his grandchildren and supervised their play time, which included cultivating vegetable plots with simple prizes for best performances," the report states.

And the commission shoots down early reports that an armed bin Laden shielded himself with his wife when discovered by U.S. forces.

"He did not use his wife or daughter as a shield to protect himself," the report says. "He was not armed when he was shot."

7. He liked his chocolate with apples
Bin Laden was believed to be, at times, in poor health while on the run, and to have suffered from a kidney ailment. It's even suspected that he somehow got a kidney transplant while in hiding.

The report, noting bin Laden's nagging health issues, says that "whenever he felt sluggish he would take some chocolate with an apple."

 
Jon Terbush is an associate editor at TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

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