Under powerful floodlights and surrounded by rings of soldiers and police, heavy machines began today to demolish the three-story compound in northwestern Pakistan where Osama bin Laden lived for years and was killed by US commandos last May. Each blow helped eliminate a concrete reminder of the painful and embarrassing chapter in Pakistan's history that the al-Qaeda chief's discovery and death in a town not far from the nation's capital represented.
They brought in at least three machines equipped with powerful crane-like arms and also set up floodlights that allowed them to begin work at night, said residents, who spoke on condition of anonymity. A Pakistani intelligence official confirmed that the demolition was in progress but declined to say why the government chose to do it. Residents of the normally sleepy town of Abbottabad were divided on what should happen to the compound, some saying it could be turned into a tourist attraction to help the town earn money. There was always the danger, however, that it could also draw al-Qaeda supporters. (Read more al-Qaeda stories.)