A man in Abbottabad, the town where Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. on Monday, inadvertently live-tweeted the attack as it started.
- Screengrab of Sohaib Athar’s Twitter page.
The man, who uses the Twitter handle “ReallyVirtual”, identifies himself as Sohaib Athar, “an IT consultant taking a break from the rat-race by hiding in the mountains with his laptops.”
Around 11 hours ago, according to the Twitter timeline, Mr. Athar first tweeted about a helicopter hovering above him at 1 a.m., saying it was a “rare event” for Abbottabad. That would have been at about 3.30 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.
Still, Mr. Athar seems to have thought of it as a mere annoyance, as his next tweet was “Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/”
Within minutes, he tweeted: “A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S”.
After a while when the sound of the helicopter stopped following a blast, Mr. Athar tweeted “seems like my giant swatter worked !”
That was followed by a Twitter discussion about what had happened. He wrote to “@m0hcin the few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani…”
Mr. Athar noted that “Since taliban (probably) don’t have helicpoters, and since they’re saying it was not ‘ours’, so must be a complicated situation#abbottabad”
Over the next two hours, Mr. Athar exchanged messages with a few other Twitter users about what had happened, learning that there was a helicopter crash. They wondered whether it was an attack or an accident.
“And now I feel I must apologize to the pilot about the swatter tweets :-/” tweeted Mr. Athar. He retweeted “ibi2010 Ibrar Ali , who said: 1 dead and 1 injured in Abbottabad for heli crashed.”
Mr, Athar seems to have gone offline for a few hours, resurfacing this morning to tweet: “interesting rumors in the otherwise uneventful Abbottabad air today.” Shortly thereafter, Mr. Athar figured out what had happened.
He retweeted a tweet from Munzir Naqvi: “I think the helicopter crash in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the President Obama breaking news address are connected.”
Mr. Athar was clearly unhappy.
“I guess Abbottabad is going to get as crowded as the Lahore that I left behind for some peace and quiet. *sigh*”
Shortly thereafter, another Twitter user confirmed the news. Mr. Athar tweeted “RT @ISuckBigTime: Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.: ISI has confirmed it << Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood :-/””
As the Twitter world discovered Mr. Athar’s live tweets from last night, thousands of followers have added him in the last few hours.
Two hours ago, he wrote: “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”
Mr. Athar has apparently also been bombarded by email and other requests. “For the people who are trying to email me to reach me, I simply can’t filter out the notifications from the emails “ he wrote.
Mr. Athar opened his Twitter account in May 2007, and had only around 750 followers as of April 30, according to Web site twittercounter.com. He now has around 13,000 and counting.