A Twitter user currently residing in Abbottabad, Pakistan detailed the circumstances of the United States' raid and capture of Osama bin Laden yesterday as the actions were transpiring. Sohaib Athar is, as it says on his Twitter account, an IT consultant who was awake last night when the raid was taking place and quickly took to Twitter to voice what he was seeing.
The first in the series of tweets read: "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event)." What followed was more summarization of the events but with a hint of comedic... cynicism, to say the least. "Go away helicopter — before I take out my giant swatter," he wrote until he began to sense that the helicopter in question could potentially be involved with something catastrophic. He continued, "A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty."
Indeed it was. Word of a surprise statement regarding national security from the president of the United Sates surfaced late Sunday evening; news of bin Laden's death broke quickly thereafter. It was not until 11:30 PM ET when President Barack Obama made his statement confirming what news outlets had already assured.
"Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it," Athar wrote right before his profile hit the news media "mainstream" and he continued with jocular comments (such as how the lack of electricity also resulted in a lack of coffee).
Certainly this wouldn't be the first time Twitter or social media has helped during seemingly confusing times, as it has for natural disasters in the past, or was used for events that arguably should have been kept private, as government officials have tweeted about the president's whereabouts, for example.
But this also wasn't the only shared information about Osama bin Laden that was making the rounds on Twitter. Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as reported by Reuters, was supposedly one of the first to break news of bin Laden's death. "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn," he wrote more than an hour before the president's speech.
As for Athar, who is currently swamped with emails, Skype invitations, and queries from media outlets, he continues to tweet with his campy attitude. On the shock of his tweeting out the actions for the entire world to read as they were taking place, Athar wrote, "I apologize for reporting the operation 'unwittingly/unknowingly' — had I known about it, I would have tweeted about it 'wittingly' I swear."