Pakistan denies presence of bin Laden

Pakistan denies presence of bin Laden  Islamabad, Oct 18 : Pakistan Monday rejected US media reports that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were hiding in its northwestern region near the Afghan border.

"Stories like this keep on surfacing. Our reaction from day one to such stories is clear - he is not here," deputy information minister Samsam Bokhari told DPA.

"They always say Osama is here but do not tell us exactly where he is located. We do not believe in these kinds of stories," he said responding to a story run by CNN Monday.

CNN quoted an anonymous senior NATO official as saying bin Laden and al-Zawahiri were hiding close to each other but in different houses in the tribal region along Afghan border.

The official said Al Qaeda leaders were not living in "caves" but in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani secret services.

He said bin Laden has been moving in the region from Chitral in the northwest on Chinese border to Kurrum, near the Tora Bora mountains in neighbouring Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda fighters were hiding during the NATO attacks in 2001.

Bokhari asked NATO to share information about bin Laden and others so that Pakistan could take action against them.

"If NATO and others have any information about Osama or his deputy or other terrorists, they should share with us. If we get credible information, we will take action against them in accordance with Pakistani laws," he said.

Despite Pakistan's denial it is widely believed that Al Qaeda leaders have been hiding in sanctuaries in the mountainous border regions.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also has said that some of Pakistan officials knew about the whereabouts of Al Qaeda leaders living in northwestern tribal areas.

"I think elements in the government do (know the whereabouts of bin Laden). I've said that before. But I think it is also important to know we have been getting with Pakistani cooperation a lot of the top leadership of Al Qaeda," she said in an interview with Fox News in July.(DPA)


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