New York: The day American spies learnt about a trusted courier of the man, Osama bin Laden was marked for death, a daily reported Monday. According to the paper, the courier was painstakingly traced to the compound in Abbottabad near the Pakistani capital where the Al Qaeda leader finally met his death.

'The property was so secure, so large, that American officials guessed it was built to hide someone far more important than a mere courier,' the daily said, revealing the inside story of Osama's killing.

Eight months of diligent intelligence work culminated in the helicopter assault by American military and intelligence operatives, leading to the death of Osama and ending one of the biggest manhunts in the world.

For nearly a decade, American military and intelligence forces had chased the spectre of Osama through Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Times said.

Once they had also come extremely close in catching him but lost him in a pitched battle at Tora Bora, in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

The final breakthrough came when the Americans finally figured out the name and location of Osama's most trusted courier whom the Al Qaeda chief appeared to rely on to maintain contacts with the outside world.

The daily quoted American intelligence officials saying that they learned the courier's real name four years ago but it took two more years to learn the general region where he operated.
And it was not until August when they tracked him to the compound in Abbottabad, the paper said.

By September the CIA had determined there was a 'strong possibility' that Osama himself was hiding there.

The imposing hilltop mansion was ringed by 12-ft-high concrete walls topped with barbed wire.
The property was valued at $1 million, the Times said, but it had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection.

'Its residents were so concerned about security that they burned their trash rather putting it on the street for collection like their neighbours.

'American officials believed that the compound, built in 2005, was designed for the specific purpose of hiding bin Laden.'

On March 14, Obama held the first of what would be five national security meetings in the course of the next six weeks to go over plans for the operation, the Times said.

'Even after the president signed the formal orders authorizing the raid, Obama chose to keep Pakistan's government in the dark about the operation.

'It is no surprise that the administration chose not to tell Pakistani officials. Even though the Pakistanis had insisted that Bin Laden was not in their country, the US never really believed it.'

On Sunday, a small team of American military and intelligence operatives poured out of helicopters for their attack on the heavily fortified compound, the daily said.

A firefight broke out shortly after the commandos arrived and Osama tried to resist the assault force.

When the shooting stopped, Osama and three other men lay dead. One woman, whom an American official said had been used as a human shield by one of the Qaeda operatives, was also killed.

The Americans collected Osama's body and loaded it onto one of the remaining helicopters.The assault force hastily left the scene.