Bin laden escaped
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Tuesday April 30, 2:45 AM
Bin Laden escaped with Afghan commander's help: rival warlord
Osama bin Laden was able to escape the clutches of US troops in Afghanistan thanks to a powerful military commander currently serving with the Afghan government, a rival warlord said.
Commander Hazrat Ali helped the alleged terrorist mastermind flee from the eastern Tora Bora mountains during an intense US-led offensive last December, strongman Haji Zaman told reporters in this northwestern frontier city.
Ali was recently appointed security chief and commander of the country's eastern zone by Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, replacing the sacked Zaman.
Zaman said Ilyas Khel, another Afghan commander, had been appointed by Ali to guard the route by which bin Laden made his escape.
"Ilyas Khel was a supporter of bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and Hazrat Ali knew it," he said.
He said he was unaware of bin Laden's current whereabouts and denied allegations that he was himself instrumental in the al-Qaeda chief's escape.
"This is a lie. I captured 55 al-Qaeda fighters during the operation in Tora Bora and handed them over to the government," he said.
Zaman also claimed he had been forced from his command post and out of Afghanistan by former members of the powerful anti-Taliban Northern Alliance because of his support for a forthcoming Loya Jirga grand assembly to select the country's next government.
"My only crime is that I support the Loya Jirga while my rivals from the Northern Alliance did not."
He added that bomb attack in the eastern city of Jalalabad during a recent visit by Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim was a plot to show that he could not maintain security.