February 18, 2009 -- Osama bin Laden is most likely hiding in the city of Parachinar in Kurram, Pakistan, according to the results of a unique study undertaken by geography professors at UCLA, who used biogeographic theories in an attempt to pinpoint the terror leader's exact location. In fact, they've even gone so far as to suggest the three most likely structures where bin Laden and his entourage may be residing.
In what started as informal conversations at the geology department at UCLA, professors Thomas Gillespie and John Agnew hypothesized about using the same theories they use every day to predict how animals distribute themselves to predict the location of bin Laden. Coupled with satellite imagery and a set of what they called "life history characteristics" they went to work.
They concluded that bin Laden is most likely in the small city of Parachinar, in the Kurram region of Pakistan, part of the volatile tribal area that borders Afghanistan. Using distance decay theory to predict his movements from his last known location in Afghanistan to possible other locations, they were led to Parachinar through an extensive process of elimination.
Then, using their set of life history characteristics, they attempted to predict the type of building he would hole up in. For example, they concluded the building would have more than three rooms, because he prefers a small number of bodyguards. They also concluded the building would likely have cover from trees because he prefers to remain protected from aerial view.
Using their requirements, the professors managed to narrow down the possible hideouts to just three structures in Parachinar that meet all the requirements. Two of the structures appear to be residential buildings, while the third looks like it may be a prison, though it has "one of the best-maintained gardens in all of Parachinar" according to their report.
The professors hope that intelligence agencies may test their theory by closely monitoring the three structures.
U.S. Long Ago Lost Track of Bin Laden
"This is a really interesting starting point," said former CIA officer John Kiriakou, now an ABC News consultant. "Parachinar would be a logical location for him to be. At the very least I would think this would be something that the FBI, CIA, and Pakistani intelligence services would want to look into. Nothing bad could come of that."
Indeed, U.S. intelligence has not come forward with such a solid suggestion of where he may be.
"The United States hasn't had any indication of his presence anywhere in seven years," said former counterterrorism official and ABC News consultant Richard Clarke.
A CIA official who had not seen the report said only, "take it with a huge grain of salt, huge."
The U.S. lost track of bin Laden the winter after the September 11th attacks when he fled his safe haven in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence believes he is hiding in the tribal region of Pakistan, but there has been no confirmed sighting of him there.
The world last heard from bin Laden in January when he released a new internet audio message challenging the new President Barack Obama. Between the threats and the rhetoric on that tape, however, one can also hear that bin Laden is quite short of breath for a man who is just 52 years old, suggesting a possible health issue.