Pakistani Report: Bin Laden Already Left Afghanistan
Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden has already left Afghanistan “silently” for an undisclosed destination, a Pakistani newspaper reported Friday, citing unidentified sources.
A source in Pakistan, known to have close contacts with the Taliban, told The News International that bin Laden had not been on Afghan soil since Monday.
But a Pakistani source with close links to the Saudi-born fugitive told AFP he was still in Afghanistan, relishing the prospect of confrontation with the United States.
"He's still in Afghanistan. This is the moment he has been waiting for. His prayers are coming true," said Hamid Haqqani, the leader of a seminary in northwestern Pakistan where several Taliban leaders studied the Qoran.
The Pakistani report quoted a Taliban source as confirming that a reluctant Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, accepted bin Laden's request to leave Afghanistan ahead of a meeting of Islamic clergy and religious scholars that began in Kabul on Wednesday.
The meeting ended Thursday with a call on bin Laden to leave Afghanistan voluntarily in the wake of the US threat to attack if he is not extradited.
''Osama bin Laden decided on his own to leave Afghanistan, given the threats of the US government to attack the country,'' the Taliban source reportedly said, adding that he left along with his trusted lieutenants, mostly Arab volunteers, and a few Afghans as well.
''We do not know which country Osama was heading for, but the reports carry weight that he is no longer in Afghanistan,'' the Taliban source said.
The daily said sources close to religious parties in Pakistan believed bin Laden might have gone to either Lebanon or Chechnya.
It quoted an Afghan national known for his close links with bin Laden as saying in a written statement that bin Laden was in good health and surrounded by young Arab who had pledged to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, to defend him.
The youngsters were said to be educated in biology, chemistry and nuclear sciences ''and are ready to make use of their knowledge to defend Muslims all over the world,'' an apparent allusion to weapons of mass destruction.
Former Pakistani Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar was also quoted by the newspaper as telling reporters Thursday that bin Laden had left Afghanistan several days earlier.
The Taliban has refused repeated requests to extradite bin Laden to face trial in connection with the 1998 bombing of two US embassies in Africa, for which he has been indicted in New York.
The United States regards him as the chief suspect in the investigation into last week's attacks on New York and Washington.
So far, however, US authorities have yet to produce concrete evidence linking bin Laden to the attacks, which left over 6,000 people are dead or missing – Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)