Twitter-zone was abuzz with speculation on whether the blasts were caused by the helicopter being shot down.
ISLAMABAD: Information technology consultant-turned local entrepreneur Sohaib Akhtar had one thing in common with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Both sought refuge in the pleasant climes of Abbottabad; the only difference was that bin Laden was on the run as the world's most wanted man, and Mr. Akhtar just wanted some quietude, far from the madding crowd of Lahore.
And, curiously enough, it was this neo-convert to Abbottabad who unknowingly tweeted the 1 a.m. (Pakistan time) raid on the compound where bin Laden was reportedly hiding.
“Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event),” he tweeted, a good eight hours before U.S. President Barack Obama announced to the world that bin Laden had been killed.
“Go away helicopter — before I take out my giant swatter,” came the second tweet, with a frowning smiley icon. “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty,” was his third tweet, about what subsequently became the first reportage about an event that would get the cantonment township global attention.
This triggered a series of back-and-forth middle-of-the-night tweets as three loud blasts shook the town awake. Twitter-zone was abuzz with speculation on whether the blasts were caused by the helicopter being shot down. “Seems something nasty happening in Abbottabad, God save us,” said one tweet. It later transpired that the explosion was caused by the U.S. forces blowing up their damaged helicopter.
In the morning, as the announcement came from White House, Mr. Akhtar tweeted that a taxi driver had told him of the Army cordoning off the area and conducting door-to-door searches. Minutes later came another tweet, this time based on what a sweeper-person had told him.
“A family also died in the crash, and one of the helicopter riders got away and is now being searched for.”
With TV channels giving up advertisement time to offer detailed coverage of what was being billed as the biggest story of the decade since 9/11 and life came to a standstill in Abbottabad, Mr. Akhtar – who runs a coffee shop – was wondering how to run his business for the day as staff members were having trouble getting to his part of town.