Bin Laden’s ashtray

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A few months ago I met the man who demolished Osama bin Laden’s last hide-out – the three-storey villa in Abbottabad where the al-Qaeda leader was shot in the face at short range. Shakeel Ahmed was selling off the bricks in bulk for building projects or giving away handfuls to souvenir hunters. His yard had all sorts of salvaged treasures. Bin Laden’s baths were rusting in a heap of weeds and a homemade TV aerial – made from what looked like a few coat hangers – was leaning against a wall.
I pointed to a raggedy piece of wood, carved into a sort of holy grail design and asked “What’s that?”
“Bin Laden’s ashtray.”
“How much do you want for it?”
“It’s for you a gift.”
So one day, when you see a raggedy piece of wood carved into a sort of holy grail design come up for sale on eBay, you’ll know that a former Pakistan correspondent is retiring.


One thought on “Bin Laden’s ashtray

  1. Your phrase “..where the al-Qaeda leader was shot in the face at short range.” struck me immediately as a piece of information that was trying to make a point.

    To talk about Bin Laden it would have sufficed to say that he was killed, or perhaps that he was shot.

    But to chance the focus of the sentences by stating that he was ‘shot in the face at short range’. in a paragraph that is talking about the ashtray, – I have to conclude that there is another message that you want to convey.

    If I had to say what that message was, I would say it is that you are stating that whatever stories may have reached the world about what transpired when he was killed, your information is that he was executed.

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