UCLA Project Predicted bin Laden's Location Two Years Ago

LOS ANGELES -- A 2009 project by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) geographers and undergraduates predicted that Usama bin Laden was likely hiding in a region that included Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was killed Sunday, Science magazine reported Monday.

Geographer Thomas Gillespie, colleague John Agnew and a class of undergraduates used the geographical theory known as island biogeography, which posits that a species on a large island is less likely to go extinct than a species on a small island after a catastrophic event.

"The theory was basically that if you're going to try and survive, you're going to a region with a low extinction rate: a large town," Gillespie said. "We hypothesized he wouldn't be in a small town where people could report on him."

The class used information from satellites and bin Laden's reported movements to develop a model of where he would most likely be. They determined that there was an 88.9 percent probability that he would be hiding out in the Abbottabad region.

Gillespie said he was not surprised that the al Qaeda leader was hiding in a town rather than a remote cave.

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"Caves are cold, and you can't see people walking up to them," he said. He added that "an inconspicuous house would have suited him better."