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Bin Laden raid tweeter not looking for fame

By Bryony Jones, for CNN
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Bin Laden raid 'tweeter' talks to CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sohaib Athar unwittingly tweeted details of events in Abbottabad, Pakistan
  • Osama bin Laden killed by U.S. Navy Seals in raid on secret compound in the town
  • Athar says people of Abbottabad are keen to return to normal lives

(CNN) -- An IT consultant who became an unlikely global internet star after tweeting details of the raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed says he is bemused by the attention he has attracted.

Sohaib Athar, 33, from Abbottabad, Pakistan, gained thousands of new followers after posting on Twitter about events in his town in the early hours of Monday morning.

But after being deluged with messages -- and interview requests -- from around the world ever since, he admits to being a little puzzled by all the attention.

"I am JUST a tweeter, awake at the time of the crash. Not many Twitter users in Abbottabad, these guys are more into Facebook. That's all," he posted on his Twitter account (@ReallyVirtual).

U.S. Navy Seals launched an attack on bin Laden's secret compound in Abbottabad in the early hours of Monday morning, killing the world's most-wanted terrorist and four other people.

In an interview with CNN, Athar said that despite the world's media descending on the town in the wake of the raid, most of its residents were -- like him -- keen to get on with their lives.

Twitter user unwittingly reports bin Laden raid

"Besides a few areas where there are a lot of journalists and many curious locals, the rest of the town is going about its normal day-to-day business," he said.

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Asked what he planned to do with his new-found fame -- and legions of new followers -- he told CNN: "I don't exactly plan to do anything.

"I am where I am and if they want to follow me and listen about what I have to say, then I can probably use it to create a more positive image for my country, but besides that, I don't really want to monetize it or anything."

Athar, who fled the rat race for a quiet life in the mountains of Pakistan, was working through the night when his train of thought was interrupted by the noise of a helicopter overhead on Monday.

"I was actually working at 1 a.m. when I heard the helicopter hovering above -- for a while it was OK, but after five or six minutes I got suspicious: A helicopter just standing there, still in the air, in Abbottabad at 1 a.m. is a pretty rare event -- so I thought something must be happening.

"I tweeted about it, because I was getting irritated by the noise it was making," he told CNN in interviews on Tuesday.

"Then I heard a fast car going by on the main road, and a few seconds after that the explosion that shook my windowpanes. I thought it was probably a bomb of some kind -- I'm from Lahore and I've heard a few bomb explosions in the past, so I could tell it was not a burst tire."

His suspicions aroused, Athar tweeted "a huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad ... I hope its not the start of something nasty" and contacted other friends in the town via Facebook's chat application.

"They told me they'd heard it too. They were around 8 or 9 kilometers away from me, so I thought it must be a really powerful explosion to be heard all over the town."

When news came in that what he had heard was the noise of the helicopter crashing, and not a bomb, he logged off.

It wasn't until he returned a couple of hours later that he heard about the death of bin Laden -- and realized the connection between that and what he'd been tweeting about.

Retweeting a fellow poster's message confirming that bin Laden had been killed in Abbottabad, he commented "there goes the neighborhood", before tweeting: "Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it."

CNN's Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.

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