Under powerful floodlights and surrounded by rings of soldiers and police, heavy machines began Saturday night to demolish the three-story compound in northwestern Pakistan where Osama bin Laden lived for years and was killed by U.S. commandos last May.
Each blow helped eliminate a concrete reminder of the painful and embarrassing chapter in Pakistan's history that the al-Qaida chief's discovery and death in a town not far from the nation's capital represented.
Pakistan was outraged by the covert American raid in Abbottabad because it was not told about it beforehand -- a decision the U.S. said was driven by concerns that someone might tip off bin Laden.
Many Pakistanis were angry that the U.S. violated their territory and that Pakistan's troops were powerless to stop American soldiers from attacking a compound next to the country's equivalent of West Point.
Just as U.S. Navy SEALs waited for the cover of darkness to descend on bin Laden's compound by helicopter from neighboring Afghanistan, Pakistani authorities held off on tearing it down Saturday until the sun had set, residents said.
The bulldozers broke through tall outer boundary walls that ringed a courtyard where one of the U.S. helicopters crashed during the operation. They then began to tear down the compound itself.
Residents of Abbottabad were divided on what the government should do with the compound. Some thought it should be destroyed, but others believed it should be turned into a tourist attraction to help the town earn money. There was always the danger, however, that it could also draw al-Qaida supporters.
The raid was a serious blow to the already troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
Ties between the U.S. and Pakistan have also been strained by American drone strikes targeting Taliban and al-Qaida militants in the northwest tribal region near the Afghan border.
A suspected U.S. drone crashed Saturday in North Waziristan, said Pakistani intelligence officials.
The drone caught fire after it hit the ground and was believed to have crashed because of technical problems, they said.