Osama Bin Laden's 'intriguing handwritten notes'

Few details have emerged about life behind the walls of Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The BBC has obtained two scraps of handwritten notes reportedly recovered from the compound after the US raid in May. Explore the full text below and read Orla Guerin's report on what they reveal.


There is no way [obscured] to resolve matters radically and to go out [obscured].

You have tried [obscured] its dark ages [obscured] by inheritance will make [obscured] unless the official is held accountable for his mistakes but [obscured] people.

And the chairmanship by Khalid Al-Faysal the investigation into the Jeddah events and holding the governorate of Jeddah responsible is but a clear evidence.

Can the doctor be held accountable for the death of the patient if he died because of a shortage of medicine, or is the one who [obscured] held accountable?

[crossed text] It shouldn't be hidden from you that the climate is changing and that more rains and flooding is forecast. What are you waiting for and on what basis are you thinking?.

If the matter had been in the hand of a qualifed Muslim emir, he would have made sure that every city chose its own emir and its own administrative board to manage the city's affairs and spend his money on them.

If they do well, then this is what should have been done [obscured] since they are under accountability.

But to waste the energies of people, and not to be [obscured] will lead to chaos, shame and defeat [obscured] Led me to the people [obscured] Muslims but his affiliation to the ruling? Family [obscured].

One of the examples, is the war of the Houthis, where people offered themselves and their own flesh and blood [Lit: the bits of their livers - Translator: reference to children], because they want to defend the land of the holy shrines out of love and appreciation for its status. You ordered one of the ruling family [obscured] who lived with him and were close to him that [obscured] and threw them into the hands of their enemies. Of the principles of combat is the control of mountains before setting foot in the valleys and lowlands, and the world saw the sons of the holy shrines [Saudis] being hunted by the malicious Safawi [Shi'i] arms. How long will this this weakness remain .....??

It was said....

What are you waiting for and on what basis are you thinking. If a person does not move to exact vengeance for one's son and one's brother then one cannot save oneself before the lapse [of time].

How did Osama Bin Laden while away the hours in the confines of his compound in Pakistan? New material obtained by the BBC suggests he may have been writing and re-writing his speeches.

The authenticity of the notes cannot be independently verified and we cannot be sure who wrote them, but if genuine, they provide a window into Bin Laden's sanctuary, and his thinking.

The two pages of scribbled notes, written in red pen, were allegedly found in the room next door to Osama Bin Laden's bedroom. Experts believe this material is a draft of a speech or statement by the al-Qaeda leader.

Some portions are damaged by water, and sentences have been crossed out. But there are clear references to climate change and flash floods in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden mentioned both in a speech last year.

Crossed out writing in red ink Excerpt from notes where Bin Laden talks about climate change

There is also criticism of the Saudi Royal family - another familiar theme for Bin Laden - and advice on leadership.

Al-Qaeda expert Abdel Bari Atwan - who interviewed Bin Laden in 1996 - says he finds the material convincing.

The content is "typical Bin Laden", according to Mr Atwan, who believes the notes may have been written to coincide with flooding in Jeddah in western Saudi Arabia in December 2009.

"I believe it's genuine," he said. "I can tell from the language and the way it is written. Whether it was written by Osama Bin Laden himself, or dictated by him to someone else, I don't know. But it has the fingerprint of Osama Bin Laden's style."

'Top of the pyramid'

A US authority on al-Qaeda, Professor Walid Phares, who advises the US Congress on counter-terrorism, also sees similarities to Bin Laden's writings, and those of Ayman al-Zawahiri - his former deputy who has now replaced him.

Osama Bin Laden's compound All roads to the compound have been closed

"I'm very intrigued by these documents. I wish we had more of them".

Prof Phares believes the references to Saudi Arabia are significant.

"He's talking about a future management and leadership of Saudi," he said, "so this is very strategic information, if indeed it comes from Osama Bin Laden. These sentences tell us he had an interest in Saudi Arabia and he had people inside Saudi Arabia, so the man is gone but these people are still there."

The notes contain advice for Bin Laden's followers. "It is somebody at the top of the pyramid, talking to supporters, to officers," said Prof Phares, "telling them that they should behave well, and those responsible for mistakes should be brought to justice."

Start Quote

Bin Laden was locked up for years with three wives and 12 children... of course, he called the Navy Seals himself”

End Quote Anonymous security official repeating popular joke

If Bin Laden did not write the notes with his own hand, who did? BBC Middle East analyst Abdallah Alsalmi says the handwriting resembles that of a teenager, aged between 13 and 16 years old.

He believes the writer could have been Bin Laden's young daughter, who was said to have been with him in the compound, and to have witnessed his killing.

"It's likely that he was dictating his thinking as a way of passing the time," he said. "He was living in the compound with no outside communications, nothing except his books and a TV set. It's likely that he was bored."

It is almost two months since US Navy Seals dropped into Bin Laden's lair, under cover of darkness, and killed the al-Qaeda leader.

Since the raid, which shook the world, US intelligence experts have been poring over a small library's worth of computer files and documents seized from his compound. But many key questions remain unanswered.

No smoking gun

How did the world's most wanted man come to live in this leafy garrison town, which is home to Pakistan's prestigious military academy, its equivalent of Sandhurst, or West Point?

Children play cricket outside the Bin Laden compound Many Pakistanis want to put the Bin Laden episode behind them

What kind of support network did he have during his time in Abbottabad - which US officials believe was as long as five years? Was there a link to Pakistan's army, or its intelligence agency, the ISI?

So far no smoking gun has been found, but mobile phone records point to a possible link to the ISI, according to the New York Times.

The newspaper claims that the mobile phone used by Bin Laden's trusted courier contained numbers for a militant group, viewed as an asset of the intelligence agency.

The group Harkat-ul-Mujahideen has denied having any contact with Bin Laden, but it is known to be close to al-Qaeda. The Pakistan army has also rejected the claim of any ISI involvement.

But suspicions remain, here and in the US, that Bin Laden must have had protection from someone, at some level in the ISI - acting officially or unofficially.

The compound still stands - seen by many as a monument to Pakistani incompetence, or collusion.

Journalists have never been allowed in, and probably never will be. These days you cannot even film the outside. All roads are politely but firmly blocked by Pakistani police and troops.

Few details have emerged about life behind the forbidding perimeter walls, some up to 18ft (5.5m) high.

Whatever Pakistani officials may have learned from their detailed examination of the compound, they are not saying.

"Investigations are continuing," a security source said. "We are still trying to work out what went wrong, and where we screwed up."

He would only provide a few domestic details. "Bin Laden was living in abject poverty," he said. "The mattresses were cheap and thin. Each of his three wives had their own kitchens. One of them was cooking with a make-shift stove."

He concluded with a now familiar Pakistani joke. "Bin Laden was locked up for years with three wives and 12 children," he said. "Of course, he called the Navy Seals himself."

Troubling investigations

After delays and false starts Pakistan has established a judicial commission into the events in Abbottabad. But even if it digs deep, some suspect its findings will never see the light of day.

Pakistani man in Abbottabad Questions still remain as to how Bin Laden ended up in Abbottabad

"It's all just an exercise for the media," said Shehzad, a young stall-holder in a bustling Abbottabad street market. "The commission will meet two or three times, and it will appear in the papers. Then the matter will be finished, and nothing will happen."

Pakistan has a habit of burying troubling investigations.

While the international community is still eager for information about Bin Laden's extended stay in Abbottabad, locals are eager to erase the stain he left on this peaceful resort.

He is history already, according to Liaqat Hussein, an articulate and welcoming shop owner, wearing stylish sun glasses, and speaking perfect English.

"This is our drawing room," he said, gesturing to the step where he sat with friends, "the place where we hold our political discussions. We talked about Bin Laden for a week, and then we moved on."

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