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Binladens sons at large { March 8 2003 }

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Bin Laden, sons still at large, Pakistan says
By Paul Watson and Mubashir Zaidi, Los Angeles Times
March 8, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistani officials sharply denied reports Friday that U.S. forces were carrying out aggressive operations in this country's rugged border region to capture Osama bin Laden.

Rumors and disputed reports, including one that U.S. forces just across the border in southeastern Afghanistan had arrested two of bin Laden's 14 sons, have been swirling since last Saturday's arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al-Qaida's alleged operations chief.

In Washington, U.S. officials said Friday that information resulting from Mohammed's arrest and interrogations have proved helpful.

But American officials said that neither bin Laden nor any of his sons is in custody, and sought to tamp down expectations that a capture of the al-Qaida leader is near.

Although the latest report came out of Pakistan, presidential spokesman Maj.-Gen. Rashid Qureshi accused anonymous U.S. sources in Washington of feeding reporters false information.

Qureshi said he had received hundreds of phone calls Thursday night, including frantic inquiries from U.S. officials, following reports that American forces were mounting search operations in Pakistan's Baluchistan province, which borders southern Afghanistan.

"There is nothing happening. No operation, no arrests," Qureshi insisted Friday. "I don't know how these reports based on Washington sources are claiming that there have been arrests in Baluchistan.

"I don't say that sources in Washington are liars, but they are certainly not telling the truth," he added.

The Pakistani government, which is a key ally in the U.S.-declared war on terror but also faces pressure from a militant Islamic segment of the population, has long denied that bin Laden is hiding in the country, and its repudiation of the flurry of reports may be an attempt to keep bin Laden at arm's length.

Qureshi said some U.S. troops are concentrating in Afghan territory along Pakistan's border but said none were active in Pakistan.

A provincial minister in Baluchistan, where Mohammed eluded capture earlier this year, set off a frenzy of reports picked up by international news agencies by claiming Friday that U.S. forces had arrested two of bin Laden's sons in Afghanistan.

Baluchistan Home Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zahri said U.S. troops had arrested the younger bin Ladens in the Afghan town of Robat, close to the Iranian border.

Local reports claimed that U.S. forces killed about seven other al-Qaida members in a fierce gun battle.

After the story was picked up by international wire services and U.S. officials in Washington were then quoted as saying they didnít believe it, Zahri conceded that he may have been wrong.

Binladen rumors snowball { March 8 2003 }
Binladens sons at large { March 8 2003 }
Captured in gun battle
Iran says it held son { November 4 2002 }
Pakistani official confirms { March 7 2003 }
Plays key role in al qaeda { October 14 2003 }
Son detained iran allegedly captured hundreds { November 3 2002 }
Sons shot captured { March 9 2003 }
Us cannot confirm reports
Us disputes report { March 7 2003 }

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