In a world in which anybody with a computer can peer into anyone else’s yard, the long-term fugitive feels like a throwback to an era of pigeon post and pith helmets. However, Osama bin Laden’s long evasion of America’s formidable reach demonstrates just how easy it can be, given the right connections and requisite chutzpah, to hide from the world.
The primary lesson bin Laden seems to have learned is the efficacy of hiding in plain sight – in his case, hilariously, in a middle-class neighbourhood near a military academy. He had, perhaps, heeded the undignified extraction of Saddam Hussein from a short stay in a literal hole in the ground. He would also have known of his fellow former Khartoumian, Carlos the Jackal, who overestimated the goodwill of his hosts (Sudan gave him up to France). And it is not fanciful to suspect that bin Laden also learnt from another famous ducker of justice’s crook, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
During Karadzic’s years at large, informed opinion regarding his whereabouts had him hiding in Serbian monasteries, cloistered in the Greek religious enclave of Mount Athos and skulking in Russia. He was eventually discovered, ponytailed and bearded, trading as new age quack Dr Dragan Dabic in a Belgrade suburb. Karadzic’s fellow Bosnian Serb war crimes indictee, Ratko Mladic, has still not been apprehended, despite a €10m reward offered by a Serbian government aware that their country will never be an EU member while Mladic’s collar remains unfelt. All things considered, those seeking Mladic should examine the area immediately beneath their noses.
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