May 3, 2011 — -- U.S. intelligence officials have been forced to reconsider many of their assumptions about Osama bin Laden and his terror network with the discovery that he was living in relative luxury not far from Pakistan's capital in a house full of children.
By the time bin Laden moved to his sprawling compound in Abbottabad, he was down to only one of this five wives. He had divorced one and three others had moved to Syria.
"He married very young, first a cousin from Syria," said Steve Coll. author of the book "The Bin Ladens." "Then a couple of very well-educated women from Saudi Arabia."
The youngest and his supposed favorite, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah stayed with him. Pakistani says her passpoprt was found in the compound after the raid. She was 29 and had been given to bin Laden as a gift by a Yemeni family when she was only a teenager.
Explained Coll, "She was a very young woman by the account of the bodyguard who brought her to meet bin Laden from the tribal family that had presented her to bin Laden, presented her to bin Laden for marriage."
Amal and bin Laden and their three young children, a daughter and two sons, lived on the second and third floor of the compound's main house. Bin Laden apparently felt safe enough in the compound, which was surrounded by high barbed-wire topped walls, to keep his family with him.
"I think it was always a mistake to believe he was in a cave," said Phil Mudd, a former high-ranking CIA analyst and a former FBI counterterrorism official, "and believe me, nobody on the inside ever thought that."
On Sunday, when the U.S. Navy SEALs moved in, Amal Ahmed was in the bedroom with bin Laden, where she reacted with apparent fury.
"In the room with bin Laden was bin Laden's wife," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "She rushed one of the U.S. assaulters and was shot in the leg, but not killed. A woman on the first floor was killed in the crossfire."
Carney confirmed that Amal was unarmed.
People who have studied bin Laden say his wives are devoted to him.
Said Mudd, "He is, in the al Qaeda context, an honorable man and he's viewed in their context not as a terrorist but as a statesman. I would be surprised if this guy would sacrifice a wife for this operation, but I'm sure she was willing to get in front of a bullet for him."
Amal's leg injury is not considered serious but another member of his family, his son Khalid, born of a different wife, was killed in the raid.
Bin Laden is survived by at least 18 other children. None of the sons, however, are considered to be in line to succeed their father.
"Unlike a lot of Arab governments that are dynastic," said former White House counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant, "al Qaeda has not been and his sons have never played a real operational role of any significance. They did not appear to be groomed for leadership roles in al Qaeda."
Raid On Bin Laden Yielded 'Motherlode' of Intelligence
In addition to taking out bin Laden, the U.S. mission here produced an unexpected intelligence discovery.
What is described as a "motherlode" of documents, computer discs, and laptops whose hard drives were removed by the Navy Seals and arrived in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, where the material is being studied by the FBI and the CIA.
Said Clarke, "The first thing they are looking for is attack plans, because we know in the past, bin Laden personally went over attack plans, including the 9/11 plan, which he rejected. He said it needed further work before he approved it. So number one is attack plans."
Number two is information that might lead the US to the location of bin Laden's deputy, the Egyptian doctor Ayman al Zawahiri.
"After attack plans," said Clarke, "[they're looking for] the location of his deputies ... where the money is, where the money comes from, where does it live, and how big an organization is al Qaeda central these days? Is it really an organization anymore at all?"
Answers to all those questions may soon come from the material found in Abbottabad, a place where it now appears bin Laden felt safe enough to live for five or six years as the world's most wanted man. U.S. officials say they may begin to get a read-out on some of the seized documents and electronic storage devices as soon as Wednesday.