7 never-before-seen artifacts from the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden are now on display at the 9/11 Museum

  • A new exhibit at the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial tells the story of the decades-long hunt for Osama bin Laden through artifacts, some of which are displayed in public for the first time.
  • Artifacts from US Special Forces, the CIA, and the FBI show how the agencies worked together to kill the al-Qaeda leader.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s new exhibit, Revealed: The Hunt for Bin Laden, tells the decades-long story of the hunt for one of the world’s most notorious terrorists.

Using artifacts from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan in 2011, as well as from the CIA and FBI, the exhibit shows how the military and intelligence agencies finally found and eliminated the founder of al-Qaeda.

“This is the first time any of the objects from the bin Laden compound have ever been seen in public,” Clifford Chanin, the executive vice president and deputy director for museum programs at the 9/11 Museum, told Insider, adding that the artifacts had just arrived from US intelligence agencies the previous week.

While the artifacts may seem like “humble objects” to some, Chanin said, “the backstory of each of these things is very, very special.”

Read on to see some of the artifacts in the new exhibit.


While it may seem like an ordinary “Wanted” poster, this one is actually signed by Navy Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw Joint Special Operations Command during the raid on bin Laden’s compound.

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A poster and picture used to identify Osama Bin Laden, signed by Adm. William McRaven.
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Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The poster lists bin Laden’s aliases and characteristics (including his height – between 6’4″ and 6’6″) and was hung at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to motivate the troops there.

After the raid on bin Laden’s compound, officially known as Operation Neptune Spear, McRaven traveled from Jalalabad in Pakistan to Bagram and noticed the poster was gone.

Some of McRaven’s colleagues later presented the poster to him, saying “Sir, I think this is yours.”


This model was used by the FBI to help plan the raid.

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A model of the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed, November 7, 2019.
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Carlo Allegri / Reuters

This knife was used in Afghanistan by an officer from the UK, which supported US forces in the region as a NATO member country.

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A knife used in Afghanistan after 9/11 at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, November 7, 2019.
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Spencer Platt / Getty Images

A vest worn by one of the members of SEAL Team 6 during the raid on bin Laden’s compound on May 2, 2011.

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Courtesy C&G Partners

This vest was worn by Cairo, the military working dog that accompanied the 23 members of SEAL Team Six and their interpreter on the raid.

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Ellen Ioanes / Business Insider

Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, received a fair amount of attention after the raid. Cairo secured the perimeter of the Abbottabad compound and was prepared to go in after bin Laden if necessary.

When he heard about Cairo’s role in the raid, former President Barack Obama said, “I want to meet that dog,” according to The New Yorker.

“If you want to meet the dog, Mr. President, I advise you to bring treats,” one SEAL jokingly told Obama.


This fragment of Arabic script was an al-Qaeda propaganda banner that supposedly hung on bin Laden’s desk at his Tarnak Farms compound in Afghanistan.

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Fragments from an al-Qaeda propaganda banner from Osama bin Laden’s Afghanistan compound.
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Ellen Ioanes / Business Insider

Starting in 1996, bin Laden operated in Afghanistan in a deal with the Taliban, under which the group allowed al-Qaeda to be present there in exchange for funding and manpower.

From 1997 to 2000, bin Laden lived and likely plotted attacks at Tarnak Farms.


This saddle and cover was used by the “Horse Soldiers” in Afghanistan.

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A saddle and cover used by the Special Operations “Horse Soldiers” in Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion.
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Ellen Ioanes / Business Insider

US Army Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha 595 rode horses to get around in Afghanistan’s rough terrain in the days and weeks just after the US invasion.