Osama Bin Laden Was Living 'High on the Hog' and 'Hiding in Plain Sight'

But U.S. intel officials say the Pakistanis were unaware of his presence.

ByABC News
May 2, 2011, 4:23 PM

May 2, 2011— -- Rather than hiding in a cave as U.S. cartoonists like to depict, Osama bin Laden was living "high on the hog" in a huge compound in an upscale Pakistani suburb.

The terrorist's fortress-like home in Abbotabad, Pakistan, consisted of two main buildings, one of them being three stories tall. Bin Laden and his family lived on the second and third floors of the larger building, according to senior defense and intelligence officials who spoke on background.

The walled compound was just 35 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and just down the street from Pakistan's version of West Point. The area is also popular with retired Pakistani army officers.

"He was more or less living in plain sight," said a senior intelligence official. "Others are living in more dire situations" while bin Laden was living "relatively high on the hog," the official said.

Two other families lived in the smaller building and the first floor of bin Laden's house.

Despite bin Laden living so boldly, senior intelligence official said there were no indications that the Pakistanis knew that the man they had been hunting for a decade was in the compound.

Nevertheless, when the U.S. first received the key intelligence last August they did not share it with the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis were asked for information that helped the U.S. determine that bin Laden was in the compound, but they were not made aware of any U.S. interest in the compound, officials said.

Pakistan wasn't informed of the raid until after it was over, the sources said.

When the Navy SEALS swooped down on the compound, the operation began by clearing the smaller building. Forty minutes later, bin Laden was shot dead in the larger building.

Osama Bin Laden Hid Behind a Woman

During the gunfight, bin Laden and three other men tried to fight back and used women as human shields, White House counterterrorism head John Brennan said. Brennan told a news conference that bin Laden used one of his wives as a shield, but in the end both the woman and bin Laden were killed.

Sources said two other women were wounded in the exchange of gunfire.

The operation went smoothly and quickly. Senior administration officials gathered to monitor the attack about 1 p.m. ET Sunday and nearly three hours later President Obama was told that bin Laden was dead.

Before burying the world's most wanted man at sea, the Obama administration claims it tried to find a country willing to accept bin Laden's remains, but defense and intelligence officials said there were no countries willing to take the body. Officials refused to answer when those countries were contacted.

Without a country willing to take the corpse, it didn't take long for the U.S. to dispose of it. Bin Laden's body arrived on board the aircraft USS Carl Vinson in the North Arabian Sea at 1:10 a.m. ET where it was washed and wrapped in white sheets according to Islamic custom, officials said. A military officer read religious remarks that were translated by a native Arabic speaker.

By 2 a.m. ET -- just 13 hours after the operation began -- bin Laden's body sank beneath waters of the Arabian Sea.

The raiders didn't just leave with bin Laden's body. They also took with them a large amount of materials that were seized during the raid for analysis. There are no details as to what the materials are. CIA is setting up a task force to go through the items.

For officials at the White House there were no guarantees that the operation would succeed. Given the amount of time it took to launch the mission from time they determine that bin Laden was in the house there was some concern that he might not be there by the time the raiding party arrived.

"At the end of the day the president made a very bold decision," said a senior intelligence official.