Osama bin Laden's hideout: 4 surprising facts

A Red Onion Restaurant, a nearby golf course... and pot? A look at the lifestyle the über-terrorist enjoyed in the "sleepy town" of Abbottabad, Pakistan

Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound, near a golf course and a restaurant, was kept amply stocked with both Coke and Pepsi.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro)

In the wake of Osama bin Laden's slaying, the media has swarmed the "sleepy town" of Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he'd been hiding, looking for clues to his lifestyle. The house in which bin Laden was found is "a tall, unlovely piece of architecture," says Declan Walsh in The Guardian, "not quite the million dollar mansion described by officials." The ramshackle structures may be ringed by surveillance cameras and barbed wire, but the paint is peeling and air conditioning is non-existent. Here, four other surprising revelations about how the terrorist tyrant was whiling away the hours:

1. His "luxurious neighborhood" has a golf course

A golf course, a military base with a hospital, and even a Red Onion Restaurant grace the area around bin Laden's house. It's unclear if he ever left his compound. "But if he did," says Richard (RJ) Eskow at The Huffington Post, "he theoretically could have taken a stroll in the local park, stopped off at the base for dialysis treatment, played a round of golf, then ended the day with some steamed mussels and grilled blackfish."

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2. He didn't return kids' cricket balls

"Along with being an evil terrorist the likes of which the world has seldom, if ever, seen," bin Laden "was also that scary neighbor whose yard was a black hole for kids' balls," says Joe Coscarelli in The Village Voice. Neighborhood children knew that if their ball flew into bin Laden's yard, they would not be allowed to retrieve it. Instead, the kids were given 100 or 150 rupees ($2-$3), several times the balls' value. "Maybe that's why so many balls went over the wall," speculates Tanvir Ahmed, a local ice cream vendor, as quoted by The Toronto Star.

3. His aides bought Coke and Pepsi

The two men who handled the daily grocery shopping for the compound would buy "enough food for 10 people," always paying cash, says grocer Anjum Qaisar, as quoted by Bloomberg News. They generally opted for superior brands — "Nestle milk, the good-quality soaps and shampoos" — and were catholic in their cola tastes, buying both Coke and Pepsi. It appears that "the man who condemned western values openly embraced its branded products, in the process indirectly enriching the very liberal, American-based, capitalist corporations he claimed to be at war against," says Abe Sauer at Brandchannel.

4. Pot plants flourished nearby

"High-strength marijuana plants" were found "just yards" from bin Laden's home, according to the Daily Mail. If bin Laden were smoking weed to cope with his kidney problems, it would help explain those bulk food orders and his "glazed and distant eyes," says Xeni Jardin at BoingBoing. On the other hand, "if ever there were a persona more harsh than mellow, it was this fellow." And patches of wild cannabis aren't unusual in the region.

Sources: Bloomberg News, BoingBoing, Brandchannel, Christian Science Monitor, Daily Mail, Gawker, Huffington Post, Toronto Star, Village Voice

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