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Videos show Osama bin Laden's secret life

Video footage recorded at Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, shows the al-Qaida founder watching himself on TV, The Associated Press reported.
/ Source: NBC News and news services

Video footage taken from Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, shows the terrorist leader watching news coverage of himself on television.

The five U.S. government-selected clips offer the first public glimpse at bin Laden's life behind the walls of his compound in suburban Pakistan. The videos include outtakes of his propaganda films and, taken together, portray him as someone obsessed with his own image and how he is portrayed to the world.

A senior intelligence officer described the information seized from the compound as "the single largest collection" of senior terrorist material ever, NBC News reported. The videos were seized by Navy SEALs after bin Laden was killed Monday.

"The treasure trove of information has provided some golden nuggets of information on communications within the al-Qaida group and we hope to get a better sense if that communication continues," the senior official told NBC News. "We are already disseminating intelligence across the U.S. government based on what we've found."

A task force is working around the clock to analyze all of the information from the compound, and is drawing from the expertise from at least 10 federal agencies. 

"Bin Laden remained an active leader in al-Qaida, providing strategic, operational, and tactical instructions to the group," the senior official said, adding "He was not just a strategic thinker for the group, he was active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions inside al-Qaida."

Officials said they removed audio from the clips because they believed it was "inappropriate" to spread the word of a terrorist, NBC News reported. Video highlights from NBC:

Video 1: A complete, unreleased message to the American people. U.S. intelligence said it was dated some time between Oct. 9 to Nov. 5, 2010. Bin Laden is shown sitting down, dressed in a gold robe, his beard is dyed black and the background is blue. There is no audio but the official said bin Laden is giving his standard message of condemning U.S. policy and capitalism.

Video 2: Bin Laden is sitting on the floor watching a television with video of his own images playing. A video of bin Laden appears on the screen. Then the camera pans over to bin Laden sitting on the floor. He has a gray beard and a black hat on, and is wrapped in a blanket. He is holding the remote control and pointing it at the television, which is sitting on a small, simple wooden table.

Video 3: A practice video. He has a dyed black beard and a wooden background, which was described as an armoire. The official said they have concluded that the armoire in the video is the same one that was found on the compound. There is no date on the video.

Video 4: Another practice clip. He has a brown background and is wearing a white shirt with a T-shirt underneath. There is no date on this video.

Video 5: Another practice video. He is in front of a wrinkled sheet, wearing a gold covering or robe and white shirt. He is wearing a white hat and his beard is dyed black. There is no date on this video.

The senior official told NBC News that bin Laden had a gray beard when he was killed during the raid and seemed to have dyed his beard black for videos.

"This mission goes to the heart of what the CIA is all about: protecting America and building a better world for our children," CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a written statement. "The material found in the compound only further confirms how important it was to go after bin Laden. Since 9/11, this is what the American people have expected of us. In this critical operation, we delivered."

Is Zawahiri the successor?
The death of bin Laden appears to have created a power vacuum at the top of al-Qaida, a senior U.S. intelligence official said Saturday.

The official told reporters that it was noteworthy that al-Qaida, even while acknowledging the death of bin Laden on Friday, did not name a successor. While the group's longtime number two, Ayman Zawahiri, might be considered his "presumed successor," the Egyptian born al-Qaida deputy is "not popular" among some members of the terror group and it is considered an "open question" as to who will succeed bin Laden, the official said.

If al-Qaida held "free and fair elections, Zawahiri would have a fight on his hands," the senior official said.

When asked by a reporter to explain the unpopularity of Zawahiri, the official responded, "He's extremely controlling, he's a micromanager, and he's not especially charismatic."

The official's comments seemed part of a broader U.S. government strategy aimed at diminishing both bin Laden and his longtime number two in the eyes of the Islamic world. The statements are in line with the U.S. release of video showing bin Laden dying his grey beard, and huddling before a TV set with a remote control watching TV footage of himself.

Zawahiri is a physician who once headed a militant group known as Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he merged with al-Qaida in 1996. He has long served as al-Qaida's de facto ideological leader, writing two books and producing a stream of videos and audio speeches calling on devout Muslims to join forces to attack the infidels of the West. But his whereabouts remain unknown.

The official offered no details about the degree to which bin Laden had been communicating with Zawahiri and other well-known figures in al-Qaida, such as Anwar Al-Awlaki, the American born propagandist in Yemen who has also been mentioned as a possible successor to bin Laden.

In Pakistan for 7 years?Meanwhile on Saturday senior Pakistani security officials said bin Laden may have lived in Pakistan for over seven years before being shot dead by U.S. forces, a disclosure that could further anger key ally Washington over the presence of enemy number one in the country.

One of bin Laden's widows , Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, told investigators earlier that bin Laden and his family had spent five years in Abbottabad, before one of the world's most elaborate and expensive manhunts ended there on Monday.

"Amal (bin Laden's wife) told investigators that they lived in a village in Haripur district for nearly two and a half years before moving to Abbottabad at the end of 2005," one of the security officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Abdulfattah, along with two other wives and several children, were among 15-16 people detained by Pakistani authorities at the compound after the raid.

Pakistan, heavily dependent on billions of dollars of U.S. aid, is under heavy pressure to explain how bin Laden could have spent so many years undetected a few hours drive from its intelligence headquarters in the capital.

The raid on bin Laden's compound has further eroded already strained relations between Washington and Islamabad, and angry Pakistani officials have said they want the U.S. to reduce its military presence in their country. The Pakistani army, while acknowledging it failed to find bin Laden, said it would review cooperation with the U.S. if there is another similar attack.

Pakistani officials have denied sheltering bin Laden, and they have criticized the U.S. operation as a violation of their country's sovereignty.

But a senior defense official said recent protests by Islamabad about the raid will not stop the U.S. from moving against terror leaders that threaten American security.

President Barack Obama has made it clear that the U.S. will take action wherever necessary to root out al-Qaida, which has declared war on the United States and has been using Pakistan as a base to plot and direct attacks from there and other insurgent locations around the world.

The official also said there are no plans to scale back U.S. training of the Pakistani frontier corps and army. But the decision is up to Pakistan.

NBC's Courtney Kube, Stephanie Gosk and Michael Isikoff contributed to this report.