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Laden’s sole fizz: Coca-Cola
- In boring secret life, symbol of capitalism not a taboo

Washington, May 8: Nemesis Barack Obama flickered on Osama bin Laden’s TV screen and Coca-Cola fizzed in his Abbottabad home as America’s biggest enemy fought boredom in his last five years, US officials say.

Consumed by domesticity behind the high walls that imprisoned him at his hideout since 2005, Osama apparently watched the world outside on television to break the stifling monotony.

One of the videos seized by the Navy SEALs who shot him dead in last Monday’s raid shows Osama watching himself on TV while a brief image of Obama flashes on the screen.

He may have had hopes of the President who eliminated him, and of his party. For, in an earlier 2007 audio message he indicates he had expected the Democratic control of Congress to end the Iraq war and complains because it hadn’t.

In another message, he comments on the writings of US Left thinker Noam Chomsky and praises ex-President Jimmy Carter’s book supporting Palestinian rights. Yet the staunch critic of the US and its “big corporations” seems to have allowed his couriers to regularly buy and bring Coca-Cola to the house although it’s not clear if he drank it himself.

The picture of his life that has emerged from interviews with US and Pakistani officials and his neighbours suggests Osama never left the compound where his physical world had shrunk to two indoor rooms and daily pacing in his courtyard.

The tall man CIA officers had watched pacing the courtyard from a surveillance post nearby was the world’s most-hunted man himself, US officials now believe.

Little is known about how Osama, 54, managed his relationships with his three wives, the youngest of whom was 29. According to NBC News, the Pakistanis found Avena syrup, an extract of wild oats that can be taken for an upset stomach but is also sold as an aphrodisiac.

Contrary to the belief that Osama was on dialysis, Pakistani investigators said last week that his youngest wife told them he was “neither weak nor frail”.

Osama’s youngest wife apparently told Pakistani officials he had recovered from two kidney operations over a decade ago in Afghanistan, in part by using homemade remedies, including watermelon.

Osama did not do chores or tend to the cows and water buffalo on the south side of the compound like the other men. Instead, he spent many hours on the computer, relying on couriers to bring him thumb drives packed with information from the outside world.

He seems to have been an isolated man, presiding over family life while plotting mayhem — still desperate to be heard, intent on outsize influence, musing in his handwritten notebooks about killing more Americans.

“My father would not look forward to staying indoors month after month, because he is a man who loves everything about nature,” one of his sons, Omar bin Laden, had said in 2009.

“But if I were to say what he would need to survive, I would say food and water. He would go inward and occupy himself with his mind.”

It is not known if Osama had a radio in the house but Omar, who lived with him in Afghanistan till 1999, described his father as constantly listening to the BBC.

His once-large entourage of Arab bodyguards was down to one trusted Pakistani courier and the courier’s brother.

There were nine children in the household, but it is unclear how many belonged to Osama and his son Khalid, who lived in the house and was killed in Monday’s raid, and how many to the courier brothers. Pakistani officials found remedies for children’s ear infections, colds and coughs in the house.

US officials said there were children in the bedroom where Osama was killed. Pakistani officials have said a 12-year-old girl told them she was a daughter of Osama and had seen the Americans shoot him.

Congressional officials said they were struck by how Osama’s low-profile, low-tech lifestyle — he had no Internet or phone connections — protected him but may have also hastened his death. Sen. Jack Reed, who serves on the armed services committee, said: “If you had twenty-five 18-year-olds with guns, then not only would the CIA notice but so would the Pakistani military.”

Reed expressed surprise that Osama was not prepared for the kind of attack the SEALs carried out.

“There was no escape route, no tunnels, not even false rooms in the house in which to hide,” he said. “It makes you wonder: at what point did that extra degree of vigilance he had get dulled by routine?”

Written with a New York Times report

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