Nightly News   |  May 03, 2011

Neighbors baffled by bin Laden hiding in plain sight

While Pakistan tries to deflect deepening skepticism that no one knew Osama bin Laden was living inside the country, local residents in Abbottabad are trying to understand how the world's most notorious fugitives was living right under their noses. NBC’s Tazeen Ahmad reports.

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>>> now to pakistan . nbc's tazzin ahmed in the neighborhood where bin laden managed to hide out for about five years, maybe more, where neighbors say they had no clue he was living in that house in their midst. tazzine, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. tonight the pakistani government is really feeling the heat . the question everyone's asking is how could osama bin laden have been hiding under their noses for so long? abbottabad, an upper middle -class tourist destination surrounded on three sides by mountains. pakistanis come here to escape the heat during the summer months. people here say they had no idea that osama bin laden had come here too.

>> it's a very peaceful place. people around the country come here for a tour.

>> reporter: it's a house set in an area that's still under development. surrounded by empty plots and half-built houses. there's no indication that behind these high concrete walled was one of the world's most notorious fugitives, living right in the heart of a garrison town , home to pakistan 's retired as well as active army generals .

>> i don't believe that osama bin laden can live here. it's all a restricted area by army.

>> reporter: soldiers on the streets in vehicles and at checkpoints. then there's the elite kakun military academy . some call it pakistan 's west point. a stone's throw from the compound where osama bin laden was living.

>> this house stands out in this area not just because it's the biggest one here but because of its 12- foot wall and barbed wire fence at the top. one family lived just opposite the bin laden compound for the last five years. they told us they knew very little about their neighbors. the family didn't mix many much with others, they said. "they never visited us and we were never invited by them." even local children thought there was something unusual about them. these kids say they thought it was strange that when they played ball in the area if it went over the fence it was never returned. local residents are still trying to make sense of what happened here.

>> i feel disgraced. we are very disappointed with our army, with our intelligence.

>> reporter: despite all the attention now focused on them, for most of the people of abbottabad life still goes on as normal. people are coming here to have their pictures taken. children are collecting souvenirs from what will for now be remembered as the hideout of the world's most wanted man. brian.

>> tazeen ahmed in pakistan for us at the scene of the raid where bin laden had been living. tazeen, thanks.