Details are emerging of how al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed at a fortified compound on the outskirts of Abbottabad in north-west Pakistan.
It is just 800 yards from the Pakistan Military Academy, an elite military training centre, which correspondents say is Pakistan’s equivalent to Britain’s Sandhurst military training academy.
The compound lies within Abbottabad’s military cantonment – it is likely the area would have had a constant and significant military presence and checkpoints.
The operation began at about 2230 (1730GMT) and lasted around 45 minutes, military sources told BBC Urdu. Two or three helicopters were seen flying low over the area. Witnesses say it caused panic among local residents.
The target of the operation was the compound, which had at its centre a large three-storey building.
When the helicopters landed outside, men emerged from the aircraft and spoke to locals in Pashto.
People living in an area known as Tanda Choha were told to to switch off their lights and not to leave their homes.
Shortly afterwards residents heard shots being fired and the sound of heavy firearms.
At some point in the operation one of the helicopters crashed after being hit by gunfire from the ground, reports say. Locals residents say that helicopter wreckage is visible in the area now.
The compound was about 3,000 sq yards but people from the area told the BBC that it was surrounded by walls 14 feet high, so not much could be seen of what was happening inside.
The walls were topped by barbed wire and had cameras.
There were two security gates at the house and no phone or internet lines running into the compound, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
After the operation witnesses said all they could see was flames snaking up from inside the house.
The forces conducting the operation later emerged from the compound, possibly with somebody who had been inside. They said that women and children were also living in the compound.
One local resident told the BBC Urdu service that the house was built by a Pashtun man about 10 or 12 years ago and he said that none of the locals were aware of who was really living there.
Intelligence officials in the US are quoted by AP as saying that the house was custom-built to harbour a major “terrorist” figure.
It says CIA experts analysed whether it could be anyone else but they decided it was almost certainly Bin Laden.
Pakistani troops arrived at the scene after the attack was over and they have now completely taken over the area.
BBC correspondents say US troops were probably operating out of a base used by US Marines in Tarbela Ghazi, an area close to Abbottabad.
Courtesy of bbc.co.uk