Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden is inside Afghanistan and being hidden for his own security, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said Sunday.
"Osama bin Laden is under the control of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and only security people know where he is," Abdul Salam Zaeef told reporters in Islamabad.
"He is in Afghanistan in an unknown place for his safety and security."
Previously, the Taliban claimed that bin Laden - wanted 'dead or alive' by the United States for his alleged role in the devastating terrorist attacks on New York and Washington - had disappeared.
Zaeef confirmed that bin Laden had been handed an edict from the Afghan council of ulemas (Afghan clerics) recommending that he be asked to leave Afghanistan voluntarily.
Asked how bin Laden had responded to the ulema ruling, Zaeef said he had given "no answer."
The Taliban have so far refused to bow to demands to hand over bin Laden, despite the threat of US military strikes.
Stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 and disowned by his family, bin Laden has lived since 1996 in Afghanistan as an honored guest of the Taliban militia that rules the country under its own ultra-rigid interpretation of the Islamic faith -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
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