May 4, 2011 — -- He was a man of many names. Arshad, Ahmed, Abu Ahmed to name a few. To his neighbors in Abbottabad, Pakistan, he was a friendly man from the country's tribal areas who worked as a money changer and built 12-foot walls to keep out the "many enemies" he'd acquired in the course of doing business.
What no one who lived near him in the sleepy, semi-rural enclave knew was that Arshad Khan was really al Qaeda operative Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, Osama bin Laden's most trusted courier, and his identity and location became the key to killing bin Laden.
Little is known about al Kuwaiti, but interviews with neighbors, Pakistani officials and U.S. officials make clear that the Kuwaiti-born Pakistani was for several years the second most-wanted terrorist in the world, if only because the CIA had become convinced he could led them to the al Qaeda leader.
Bin Laden, al Kuwaiti, al Kuwaiti's brother, one of Bin Laden's sons and a woman were killed early Monday morning when a team of Navy SEALs conducted a covert raid at the compound where bin Laden was living.
Until eight months ago, when al Kuwaiti was spotted in Peshawar and tracked back to the compound, the CIA knew his identity, but not where he lived.
One neighbor, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, told ABC News that he knew al Kuwaiti as Arshad Khan. He was a courteous, if not forthcoming, neighbor, heavyset by local standards, who could be seen driving his wife and children to town. The neighbor, who didn't own a car, said Arshad Khan often gave him rides into town.
"I would ask if I could have his mobile number," the neighbor said. "He said he didn't own a phone," and rarely answered other personal questions.
Even so, the neighbor said the man he knew as Arshad once explained that the compound's unusually high perimeter wall had been built because of the many enemies he'd acquired in the years he ran a money-changing business in Pakistan's Tribal Areas.
Al Kuwaiti was identified in 2003, U.S. officials said, as someone who would be trusted by bin Laden. He was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's protege and later the man who delivered a promotion from bin Laden to Abu Faraj al Libi, the al Qaeda operative who replaced Mohammed as the organization's number three leader.
Al Kuwaiti was tracked to the Abbottabad compound in 2010, after which the CIA determined that a high value target, possibly bin Laden, was living behind its walls. The main building included a terrace enclosed by a high wall on an upper floor, leading analysts to speculate it could be used to conceal a very tall man. Bin Laden was at least 6'4".
As details emerged about the daily habits of al Kuwaiti, including trips to the local bakery and mosque, Pakistani officials have conducted raids and arrests of people connected in any way to bin Laden's courier or the compound in which both bin Laden and the courier lived.
Among those taken into custody have been the man believed to have designed the secure complex and acted as the project's contractor when it was built in 2005. One Pakistani official named the man as Tahir Javed, though his identity could not be verified. Pakistani officials and local residents say the contractor has since been released.
Another person of interest is a major local landowner named Shamroz who owned several plots next to the bin Laden compound. Neighbors described Shamroz and his sons as the people who knew the al Qaeda courier and his family best. Shamroz and his two sons have reportedly been arrested.
Despite their interaction with the courier, however, none of the locals say they ever saw the man he was protecting outside the compound's walls. They say they had say they had no reason to suspect the world's most wanted man had lived among them for six years.