An Information Technology consultant in a small town in Pakistan
has become the latest Twitter celebrity following an all-night
live-tweeting session on the sudden appearance of a helicopter,
loud bangs and gunfire which signalled the end of the world's most
wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Sohaib Athar, 33, living in
Abbottabad, about 120 km from the capital Islamabad, had about a
thousand followers on his twitter account when he first tweeted at
about one in the night about a suspicious happening - "Helicopter
hovering above Abbottabad at 1 a.m. (is a rare event)".
Twelve hours later, he was suffering not just from lack of sleep,
but from a deluge of twitter followers and queries from
journalists from all over the world.
By Monday, Athar's Twitter follower count had already reached
The hovering helicopter was part of the US operations against the
fugitive Al-Qaeda leader holed up in a fortified mansion in
Abbottabad, about three km from where Athar was tweeting.
About 10 minutes after that first tweet, he wrote: "A huge window
shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of
something nasty :-S".
Athar, who owns a coffee shop, linked to a blog post which said
that local people were speculating about a helicopter crash near
the Pakistan military academy and that security forces had
surrounded the place.
Presciently, Athar tweeted: "The few people online at this time of
the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani..."
But, at that time, there was of course no inkling a US operation
was on against Osama bin Laden. Some other local persons tweeted
about a bomb blast.
For the next three hours, with no information, there was a
constant to-and-fro with other fellow Pakistani twitterers on what
could be the provenance of the copter crash and the gunfire, which
lasted a few minutes.
"Since Taliban (probably) don't have helicopters, and since
they're saying it was not 'ours', so must be a complicated
situation #abbottabad," tweeted Athar at about 2 a.m. Pakistan
At 8 a.m., about an hour before US President Barak Obama's
announcement, Athar posted, "Interesting rumors in the otherwise
uneventful Abbottabad air today".
But, there were hints that something important had happened in the
city. "Report from a taxi driver: The army has cordoned off the
crash area and is conducting door-to-door search in the
surrounding," tweeted Athar.
After the official announcement, he understood that things will
not be the same anymore.
It took another hour before the deluge of followers started. "Uh
oh, now I'm the guy who live-blogged the Osama raid without
knowing it," Athar said.
When IANS contacted him, Athar said that he was flooded by a large
amount of media queries following his all-night tweeting.
"I am sorry but I am overwhelmed with emails/phones/chat requests
at the moment - I will definitely try to answer your questions,
probably as a blog post - as soon as I can. I had been working all
night and didn't anticipate that I'd need to stay awake till noon
too, so it is hard to talk over phone/voice chat," said Athar.