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Bin laden dna will help identify tall man killed

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Bin Laden family DNA will help to identify 'tall man' killed by CIA
By David Wastell in Washington and Charlotte Edwardes
(Filed: 03/03/2002)

MEMBERS of Osama bin Laden's family are ready to provide samples of DNA to help American investigators establish whether the terrorist leader has been killed.

At least some of bin Laden's 50 siblings on his father's side would not object to such a request, The Telegraph has learnt, if only to clarify the status of their brother.

American officials are trying to determine whether or not bin Laden was killed in a recent CIA missile strike against a group of suspected terrorists in Zawar Kili, Afghanistan. One of the three people killed was strikingly tall, like bin Laden himself.

Tim Metz, a bin Laden family spokesman in New York, refused to comment on last week's Pentagon announcement that it was seeking DNA to compare with tissue samples taken from the bodies.

Friends of the family outside the United States said, however, that they expected some relatives to co-operate if approached. "It's in everyone's interests to know exactly what has happened," said one.

Although most of bin Laden's siblings live in Saudi Arabia, where they are close to the ruling royal family, up to 15 are in Europe, including Britain, and a further three live in America. Many are involved in the family construction business, and have disowned bin Laden and repudiated his terrorist activities.

He has further half brothers and sisters through his mother's remarriage after his father's death, all of whom are thought to be in Saudi Arabia.

Washington officials said that any approach to the extended bin Laden family would be through an intermediary. There was speculation that the Saudi government is being asked to approach family members discreetly on Washington's behalf. George Tenet, the director of the CIA, who was in Saudi Arabia this week to discuss Middle East peace plans, may have conveyed such a message.

One American official said: "If you're wondering why we don't yet have a sample, you'd better ask the Saudis."

The attempt is complicated by the fact that, if DNA is retrieved from a body that is decomposed, it can be easier to prove a match to relatives on the female side - in bin Laden's case, from his mother or any of her daughters.

The Pentagon has collected DNA not just from the site of the missile attack on the "tall man", but also from human remains found at other sites of American bombing raids. Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, said last week: "We have dealt with a great many caves and tunnels, and there undoubtedly were al-Qaeda and Taliban people in those caves and tunnels, and to the extent that eventually we are able to match DNA it would be helpful to know positively who was killed."

A Pentagon laboratory is creating genetic profiles from tissue specimens recovered inside Afghanistan. Christopher Kelly, a spokesman for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, said that scientists had received a small amount of "biological material" from the site of the CIA attack on February 15. It would take two more weeks to complete that work, he said.

The scramble for bin Laden family DNA reflects rising concern in America that the terrorist leader has not yet been caught or killed, despite intensive searches by special forces troops. Last week Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader, became one of the first political leaders to voice public criticism, declaring that the war on terrorism "will have failed" without bin Laden's capture.

In the absence of definitive proof, most Pentagon officials believe that bin Laden is alive and probably moving around in the mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. "If he were dead, it would be hard for some of these guys to resist talking about it," said an official, referring to the assumption that al-Qaeda members would discuss bin Laden's death over radios or in telephone calls.

American suspicions have been heightened by a mysterious internet website, which appeared earlier this month, carrying messages apparently from bin Laden, his Egyptian lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, and other senior Taliban.

The website carries claims of "Mujahideen" actions against what it terms the "crusaders" inside Afghanistan, exhortations to release the prisoners, and accounts of actions such as the alleged shooting down of an American aircraft.

One recent message on the site, or "the call", is signed by Abu Ayman al Khilali, an alias used by Dr al Zawahiri, and highlights bin Laden's political thinking. Another message, posted a few days earlier, offered condolences purporting to come from bin Laden himself on the death of a Pakistani religious scholar. Like the rest of the site it was written in the same circuitous and difficult Arabic used by bin Laden.

A Western intelligence official said the site was now being monitored by US security services.

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