Conflicting Reports Emerge on Bin Laden’s Whereabouts
Accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts are not known, and conflicting reports are circulating on whether he has left Afghanistan or not. If he is inside Afghanistan, say some sources, he may be in areas controlled by the opposition Northern Alliance.
A report first said that bin Laden had left Afghanistan for an unknown destination, quoting Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan as saying Saturday. However, the US has cast doubt on that statement.
Abdul Salam Zaeef was quoted by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite channel and AP as asserting that the leader of the Al Qaeda network had left the war-torn country.
But Reuters quoted the same envoy as saying later that bin Laden was still in Afghanistan but that his exact location was unknown.
Speaking to reporters after crossing the border into Pakistan after a visit to the Taliban's southern stronghold of Kandahar, Zaeef said bin Laden, accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 hijack attacks on the United States, had not left Afghanistan.
“Osama is inside Afghanistan but I don't know whether he is in our (Taliban) territory or the area controlled by the Northern Alliance,'' Zaeef told reporters.
US officials reacted with skepticism to the initial claim.
"Our search continues," Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood was quoted by the AP as saying.
Military and intelligence officials said they had no evidence that bin Laden had fled Afghanistan, and suggested the Taliban could be trying to misdirect the search in order to protect bin Laden.
Earlier Saturday, a Taliban official in southern Afghanistan confirmed that one of bin Laden's top aides, Mohammed Atef, died in a US air raid three days ago along with seven other members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network. American officials believe Atef planned the Sept. 11 attacks.
But other Taliban officials, quoted by Al Jazeera, denied the top leader was killed.
News of a third key figure also contradicted.
Kuwait's official news agency (KUNA) quoted the leader of Taliban forces, Jalaluddin Haqqani, as saying Saturday that bin Laden was still alive and enjoying good health, denying reports he had been taken captive by Taliban’s foes.
Speaking to the agency by telephone from Kandahar, he said "I've been in Kandahar for the last week. I am reorganizing the Taliban forces. I enjoy the full confidence of the Taliban supreme commander Mullah Muhammad Omar."
Haqqani said that the North Alliance and its associates were spreading lies and propaganda against bin Laden by asserting that he had been captured.
At one point, they claimed Haqqani has been killed in a fight with rebel forces - Albawaba.com
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