Skip to main content

Osama bin Laden had been 'hiding in plain sight'

Click to play
Security expert on Osama death
  • Death of bin Laden in Pakistan mansion proves he had been 'hiding in plain sight'
  • Comes at a time when relations between U.S. and Pakistan were strained
  • Pakistan government will face protests at home, suggests CNN's Nic Robertson
  • There is no replacement for bin Laden in al Qaeda, says Peter Bergen

(CNN) -- The death of Osama bin Laden proves that he had been "hiding in plain sight" says CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

The U.S. special forces operation that killed bin Laded took place at a mansion in the town of Abbottabad, just over 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Pakistan capital Islamabad.

"This has been exactly the concern of western officials; that he had been hiding not in a remote border area but in the cities."

The death of bin Laden in Pakistan there will present some difficulties for the government there, said Robertson.

"It's been one of the most difficult and thorniest issues (for the government), what happened if bin Laden is killed on their soil?

Bin Laden's death affects the world
The life of Osama bin Laden
  • Al Qaeda
  • Pakistan
  • Osama bin Laden

"It would not be difficult to imagine there would be some sort of backlash or protests on the streets there of Islamabad."

The death of bin Laden comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and Pakistan are particularly strained with Pakistani officials angered by U.S. drone strikes in the country. The case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who fatally shot two Pakistani men in Lahore in February, also highlighted divisions between Washington and Islamabad.

But Peter Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, believes the bin Laden operation "shows that underneath this actually there is a pretty firm relationship."

"It is highly significant that Pakistan allowed this to happen on their territory so near their capital," he added.

According to a U.S. official the Pakistan authorities had not been informed ahead of the actual raid.

The implications for al Qaeda, bin Laden's terrorist network, are also significant.

"It is unlikely to kill off al Qaeda but it is going to have a huge psychological impact on members of the organization," says Robertson.

"It's likely we'll hear members of the organization on the internet saying they don't believe this; al Qaeda members are going to say this is part of western propaganda until they see some evidence."

Peter Bergen met bin Laden in 1997 and believes that al Qaeda will perhaps be irrecoverably damaged by the death of bin Laden.

"There's no one who can replace him. When you join al Qaeda you pledge a personal oath of allegiance (to him)," he says.

American-Yemeni cleric Anwar al Awlaki plays a leadership role for al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, but believes Bergen, "(he) is not a major hero to the global jihadi movement who fought the Soviets and U.S. for two decades (like bin Laden)."

Part of complete coverage on
Q&A: al Qaeda's power struggle
The appointment of a former Egyptian army lieutenant as the interim leader of al Qaeda suggests a power struggle within the Islamist organization.
Jihadists eager to avenge Osama
From Morocco to the Himalayas, online forums associated with al Qaeda overflow with declarations that global jihad will continue.
Who are al Qaeda's most wanted?
He was its founder and strategic guiding force, but now that Osama bin Laden is dead, who are al Qaeda's most wanted leaders?
U.S. to speak to bin Laden's wives
The United States will be given access to Osama bin Laden's wives, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told CNN Tuesday.
Children recall bin Laden's compound
Children in Abbottabad said they noticed oddities at bin Laden's compound but were oblivious he was hiding in the city.
Exclusive: Bin Laden's young bride
Amal al-Sadah was "a quiet, polite, easygoing and confident teenager" who came from a big, conservative family in Yemen.
Roots of terror untouched by death
As the death of Osama bin Laden reverberates around the world the root causes of extremism are apparently largely being ignored.
Al Qaeda threats, terror plans surface
Saber-rattling al Qaeda warnings against the U.S. emerged as the killing of Osama bin Laden continued to yield a trove of intelligence.