IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

I liveblogged Osama raid without knowing it'

A computer programmer, startled by a helicopter clattering above his quiet Pakistani town early Monday, did what any social-media addict would do: he began sending messages to Twitter.
/ Source: news services

A computer programmer, startled by a helicopter clattering above his quiet Pakistani town early Monday, did what any social-media addict would do: he began sending messages to Twitter.

With his tweets, 33-year-old Sohaib Athar (), who moved to Abbottabad to escape the big city, inadvertently recorded the end of a worldwide manhunt for the man held responsible for orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it," he tweeted.

Athar, a resident of the town where Osama bin Laden was holed up, thought the helicopter flying overhead was unusual enough to post it on his Twitter account.

That first tweet was innocuous: "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)."

When he heard a loud bang that shook his windows, he wrote that he hoped "its not the start of something nasty."

The noise alarmed Athar, who had moved to the upscale area of Abbottabad to get away from city life after his wife and child were badly injured in a car accident in the sprawling city of Lahore, according to his blog in July.

As the operation to kill bin Laden unfolded, Athar liveblogged what he was hearing in real time.

He questioned whose helicopters might be flying overhead. "The few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani," he tweeted.

Throughout the battle, he related the rumors swirling through town: it was a training accident. Somebody was killed. The aircraft might be a drone. The army was conducting door-to-door searches in the surrounding area. The sound of an airplane could be heard overhead.

Athar then said one of the aircraft appeared to have been shot down. Two more helicopters rushed in, he reported, and gunfire and explosions rocked the air above the town.

Soon Athar's tweets earned him 14,000 new followers as he unwittingly described the U.S. operation to kill one of the world's most wanted militants.

'There goes the neighborhood'

After liveblogging and speculating for several hours over what happened, it dawned on Athar and those following him that they were witnessing bin Laden's final moments.

"I think the helicopter crash in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the President Obama breaking news address are connected," said one of Athar's followers.

Seven hours after Athar's first tweet, President Barack Obama announced bin Laden's death in an operation by U.S. forces where one helicopter was lost.

" Eight hours and about 35 tweets later, the confirmation came: "Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan," Athar reported. "There goes the neighborhood."

Athar's tweets, initially peppered with jokes eventually turned to exasperation as his email inbox, Skype and Twitter accounts were flooded by those trying to reach him ("Ok, I give up. I can't read all the @ mentions so I'll stop trying").

Athar did not respond to's requests for comment — he explained in another tweet that a filter he set up to stop his email box from flooding could be culling out requests for interviews. He apologized, saying he was sorry "for not being able to reply to ... queries individually."

Separately, in the U.S., the first indication that bin Laden had been found and killed came from another tweet by Keith Urbahn ( ), who says on his Twitter profile that he is chief of staff for former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn," Urbahn tweeted more than hour before Obama's speech.

With the biggest news in a decade dominating the Internet, it didn't take long for rogue viruses, Trojans and other malware to mess with computers given the chance. This story details the malicious software sprouting up from news of Bin Laden's death. (The links in the story are safe, but be wary of the links that may emerge from those links.)

Twitter, launched five years after the 2001 attacks, is used by an estimated 200 million people per day, serving as an Internet platform for users to broadcast, track and share short messages.