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The Media Line
Arch-terrorist Osama Bin Laden "may have been killed", since there is little information to suggest he is alive, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday.
Neither Pakistani nor American intelligence experts have detected traces of Bin Laden since the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera aired an audio recording of his voice in March, Zardari said, and even that recording has not been confirmed as Bin Laden’s voice.
Zardari said his advisers believed there was substance to the rumors of his death, but he could not confirm this.
There have been several reports over the last few years suggesting Bin Laden, 52, could be dead, and others regarding his ailing health.
None of the reports have been substantiated.
It is believed the terror chief is hiding in the mountainous region that straddles the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
U.S. State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. had "no information" as to whether Bin Laden was dead or alive. “We will continue to hunt Osama Bin Laden until we can capture him or bring justice to him,” Wood said.
An editorial in the London-based Al-Quds Al-‘Arabi suggested that whoever leaked the rumor of his death wanted to prompt Bin Laden to produce a new video to prove he was still alive.
“They hope this will provide more information on his whereabouts or hideout, which will help bring about his arrest.”
Zardari’s comments could also be a message to the U.S. that the mastermind behind terrorism in Pakistan is in fact not alive, Al-Quds Al-‘Arabi said.
The U.S. has been pressuring Islamabad to take tougher measures against terrorism within its border.
However, the editorial’s author believes rumors of his death are premature.
“The death of the Al-Qa’ida leader is not so far-fetched, and he will depart at some point, whether as a result of a disease, an assassination or in clashes with the numerous intelligence agencies around the world that are pursuing him” the editorial said.
“But if he dies, it will be announced officially by the organization, the same way they already announced the deaths of several lower-level leaders.”
An official announcement of his death has to be made, he wrote, in order to solve legal issues such as inheritance laws and the legal status of the widow.
There is increasing concern in the international community that terrorists such as those in Bin Laden’s Al-Qa’ida organization and the hard-line Taliban will get their hands on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
Last week, the Taliban managed to reach an area located approximately 100 kilometers from the capital Islamabad before being repelled.
Zardari ruled out the possibility of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban.
“The nuclear capability of Pakistan is in safe hands,” he said.
The Pakistani government said the Taliban had completely withdrawn from the district, but reports quoting local eyewitnesses said Taliban fighters were still present on the ground.
The Pakistan army killed 46 Taliban fighters over the past two days in northwest Pakistan’s Lower Dir district.
The Taliban is warning it will attack government forces in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) if the government does not stop its offensive.
The Taliban has suspended talks with the provincial government in the wake of the clashes.
The government in NWFP struck a deal with the Taliban under which Islamic Law, or Shari’a would be introduced to the area in return for a suspension in Taliban hostilities.
Photo: We are unable to ascertain whether the photo is genuine or not. -Editor]
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