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Alive in pakistan

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Posted 3/6/2003 5:45 AM

Mohammed: Bin Laden living in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) Osama bin Laden is alive, in good health and living in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the suspected No. 3 al-Qaeda leader told his interrogators after being captured last weekend, a Pakistani intelligence official said Thursday.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he met with bin Laden in recent weeks using a complicated network of phone calls, runners and intermediaries to line up the visit, said the official, who participated in the interrogation.

The meeting took place in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province or in the rugged mountain peaks that run along the border with Afghanistan, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mohammed said he didn't know bin Laden's exact whereabouts now, but that he was in the region, according to the official.

Mohammed was captured last Saturday in a joint raid by Pakistani and CIA operatives on a house in Rawalpindi, a bustling city adjacent to the capital.

The official said Mohammed was interrogated for several hours by both Pakistani agents and CIA agents before being handed over to U.S. authorities and taken out of the country to an undisclosed location.

"He said proudly, 'the sheikh (bin Laden) is a hero of Islam and I am his tiny servant. Life, family, money, everything can be sacrificed for the sheikh,'" said the intelligence official.

In what appeared to corroborate Mohammed's information, The Associated Press received similar information on Monday from a former Taliban intelligence chief. In a telephone interview from Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, the former intelligence chief said bin Laden was seen in South Waziristan in Baluchistan province less than two months ago.

Bin Laden was meeting with Taliban members, he said. His report could not be independently verified, but both U.S Special Forces and Pakistani soldiers are in South Waziristan trying to flush out fugitive Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Several sources say that bin Laden moves with only a small number of guards, changing his location nightly, never using satellite telephones. Instead he reportedly sends messages through intermediaries to a selected person who makes telephone calls on his behalf, according to former Taliban interviewed by The AP in Pakistan's remote tribal regions.

Another intelligence official earlier told the AP that a raid was carried out on a house in Wana in South Waziristan earlier this year after a tip off was received that bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri, was there. The raid led to the arrest of some Afghan Taliban, but not al-Zawahri.

Officially, however, Pakistan's Interior Ministry spokesman, Iftikhar Ahmad, said "we cannot say that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan. He (bin Laden) would have been arrested if he had been here."

Western diplomats say it's intriguing that Mohammed was arrested in a Rawalpindi neighborhood, where army generals and top military officials live. The congested city of about 4 million people is the headquarters of the Pakistani Army and home of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Mohammed was arrested at the home of an activist of Pakistan's oldest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which has close links with the Pakistan intelligence service, known as ISI.

In the 1980s, Jamaat-e-Islami activists worked closely with Pakistan's intelligence to help Afghan insurgents during the U.S.-bankrolled anti-communist war in Afghanistan.

Arab and Pakistani sources told the AP that Mohammed may have been trying to raise money for terrorist attacks against U.S. interests.

Fund-raising was not new to Mohammed, who ran an Islamic charity in northwestern Peshawar along with his brother during the 1980s war in Afghanistan. Through their charity they financed Islamic insurgents and taught students at religious schools in Peshawar and in nearby Pubbi, including the Jalozai Refugee camp, where many Arab militants lived.

Other militant Arab warriors lived in nearby Shamshatoo camp, which was run by renegade rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami group. Hekmatyar has been labeled a terrorist by the United States.

A former loyalist of Hekmatyar's a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship who identified himself as Abu Yusuf said Mohammed traveled freely throughout Pakistan. His only fear was from U.S. intelligence agents, who have provided the tipoffs to Pakistani security officials that have led to previous raids and arrests.

One such tip led to a raid in southern Karachi last Sept. 10 in which Mohammed's wife and two small children were arrested, Abu Yusuf said.

The next day, Ramzi Binalshibh, a would-be hijacker who could not get into the United States, was captured in the southern port city of Karachi. He was an aide to Mohammed and a key moneyman for the attacks on the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon.

Pakistani officials said that an arrest made in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, helped police trace Mohammed to Rawalpindi. However, other reports say that U.S. intelligence traced a telephone call that led police to Mohammed.

A second al-Qaeda suspect, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi, a Saudi national, was arrested with Mohammed, along with Ahmed Abdul Qadus.

Al-Hisawi was suspected of financing the Sept. 11 attacks. He was also said to be the moneyman for al-Zawahri and may have been trying to contact the Egyptian fugitive at the time of his arrest


Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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