Monday, May 2, 2011

The (Likely) Accurate Location of bin Laden's Pakistani House

[UPDATE, JULY 2013: The originally reported location is inaccurate, and there is still no placemark in Google Earth. Scroll to the end of this article for the correct location.]

Thanks to a placemark in Google Maps, the house where Osama bin Laden was (allegedly) killed today can be found. Of course, you have to wade through the pile of inaccurate placemarks first.

To find it:
  1. Search for "Abottabad, Pakistan" 
  2. Head north on the road marked Karakoram Highway, or N35
  3. Turn right onto Awami Road
  4. Almost exactly halfway between N35 and Kakul Road, north of Awami Road, is the compound
Conversely, you can just search for these coordinates:
34° 11′ 15″ N, 73° 14′ 33″ E

Here's what it looks like in Google Earth:

So what leads me to believe that this is the correct one? Here's what the news reports have to say about the compound:
  • 18-foot-high walls
  • Surrounded by relatively rural area
  • Eight times larger than surrounding houses
You may not see all of this in this picture, but we can deduce from these shadows that the wall around this house is huge. It's definitely more rural than the city areas denoted by other Google Maps placemarks, and it's probably not visible from Awami Road.

It doesn't appear to be eight times larger than surrounding houses, but remember that this house is probably pretty tall. We'll have to wait for images from the ground to confirm that this is the place the U.S. military raided earlier today.


CNN is now reporting that this house, one of the others suggested by the online community earlier this morning, is the correct building. However, this structure fits the "eight times larger" description even less than my suggested building. It does fit the description of being relatively new, as it is not visible in Google Earth's 2001 aerial photos. I remain skeptical because this doesn't seem consistent with the building shown in news videos released so far today, so I'll await further confirmation before declaring an exact building as the correct one.

You can find this location with these coordinates:
34° 10′ 10″ N, 73° 14′ 33″ E


I decided to revisit this article to see if the location I had originally identified is accurate. Turns out I had a whole year to do it, since the compound was destroyed in April 2012. Take a look at these two photos (one from CNN, one from Google Earth) from May 2011, just a few days after the compound was raided and bin Laden's face was bulleted:

In both images, the smaller, angled-roof building across the street is visible. Then, just under a year later, the compound was destroyed even though it was only a few years old. I'm sure conspiracy theorists are frothing over that one. Here are two more pictures, both from April 2012, from the same sources:

Yep, totally flattened. If the news is correct, and they probably are, then this was definitely the place where Seal Team Six delivered lead justice to bin Laden. Mystery solved!

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