No proof is required on how the social media landscape has changed the way we gather, receive, and disseminate news information. Sohaib Athar, the 33 year-old IT Consultant from Lahore, Pakistan, proved this by live-blogging the U.S. military raid that killed the world’s most wanted and feared terrorist, Osama bin Laden.
From relative obscurity and a paltry 57 followers to 92,991 followers as of 7:45 am EDT, Athar provided – unbeknownst to him at the time – the first reports and a “play-by-play” of the raid that has brought great relief to a nation impacted by the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
According to Athar’s website: www.reallyvirtual.com, he is an individual who posts a combination of tech news, current events, commentary via Twitter and his blog, all while “taking a break from the rat race by hiding in the mountains with his laptop.”
Athar’s tweets, at www.twitter.com/reallyvirtual unknowingly captured the helicopter approach, explosions and ensuing firefight between U.S. Navy Seals and armed forces within bin Laden’s compound. He explained the unique turn of events by tweeting “irony follows me everywhere I go.”
Twitter posts included:
@ReallyVirtual – Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).
@ReallyVirtual – Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter :-/
@ReallyVirtual – A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S
@ReallyVirtual – Interesting rumors in the otherwise uneventful Abbottabad air today
@ReallyVirtual –RT @ISuckBigTime: Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan.: ISI has confirmed it << Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood :-/
@ReallyVirtual – I need to sleep, but Osama had to pick this day to die :-/
@ReallyVirtual- Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.
Shortly thereafter a blogger reporting under the Twitter name, KeithUrbahn , whom the Washington Post described as an aide to former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, posted: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.”
Athar’s live “play-by-play” of the Osama bin Laden take-down is a first of sorts for the 62 month old social networking platform. Never in the history of social media has a story such as this been blogged in real-time.
Sohaib Athar or “@ReallyVirtual” has been a programmer for 18 years and a parent for seven. His tweets reveal a recent move to the mountains of Abbottabad, Pakistan, that were prompted by a near-fatal car accident that his wife and son barely survived. Their car was struck by a police van.
Athar writes, “the accident also served as a catalyst and helped me move from the big-city life of Lahore to the small-town life of Abbottabad.” He said his perspective on Pakistan changed and commented about his “shock and disgust at the dismal state of our (the Pakistani) legal and health system.”
Athar’s tweeting of the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden is not the first time he has reported on terrorist bomb blasts. His blog also refers to an attack that took place in Lahore back in October 2008. He wrote, “Last night, some terrorists succeeded in planting three time-bombs in the Garhi Shahu area in Lahore, an area that is 4-5 kilometers away from my house. Thankfully, nobody had died until the last update.”
How interesting that an IT consultant who moved to Abbottabad to seek the peace and quiet of the mountains was within earshot of the biggest news story in recent times. How interesting indeed to have reported not one, but two incidents of such magnitude.
Athar explained that he is amused by his instant notoriety tweeting, “Interesting, I didn’t think my name would trend on Twitter before releasing a couple of rock albums and a few award-winning software [programs].” With 92,991 Twitter followers, Athar is sure to be kept under a more watchful eye in the future…
Note on removed image: Although previously published by the Associated Press, the “Osama bin Laden” death image WAS WITHDRAWN after the news agency determined it could not independently verify that the person in the photo was –in fact – Osama bin Laden. As such, it has been withdrawn from this article.