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Afghan intelligence official: Bin Laden in Pakistan

By John Raedler
CNN

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A high-ranking Afghan intelligence official told CNN on Friday that he believes Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan.

Abdullah Tawheedi, a deputy head of intelligence in Afghanistan, says he has received "reliable information" that the terrorist leader paid a "large amount" of money to buy his way out of Afghanistan.

It was the second time in as many days that a Afghan government official said bin Laden was in Pakistan.

The report could not be independently verified.

Tawheedi named Haji Zaman -- a well-known independent military commander -- as the man responsible for taking bin Laden across the border to Pakistan.

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Ironically, Zaman had recently been fighting against bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization. But Tawheedi says he believes Zaman was apparently persuaded by money to help the terrorist leader.

Tawheedi said Zaman handed bin Laden over to the protection of an Islamic group with links to Pakistan's intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The agency helped establish and supported the militant Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan for five years.

Tawheedi said that Zaman had recently requested a cease-fire in the Tora Bora region of southeastern Afghanistan, where bin Laden was believed to be hiding.

Tawheedi said he believes Zaman wanted hostilities stopped so he could steal bin Laden out of the danger area to safety. Tawheedi said his information is that bin Laden paid Zaman a "large amount" of money for safe passage to Pakistan.

On Thursday, an Afghan Defense Ministry official said bin Laden was in Pakistan, being protected by the Islamic JUI Party. The head of that party called the report a "joke."

CNN Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who has interviewed bin Laden, said it is doubtful that bin Laden would go to Pakistan.

Bin Laden has spoken out against the Pakistani government, the country has fewer places to hide, and Pakistan has a history of extraditing people the United States wants to put on trial, Bergen said.

On Thursday, Hamid Karzai, the chairman of the interim Afghan government, said he doesn't know where bin Laden is.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when asked Thursday about bin Laden's whereabouts, said he has stopped following daily conflicting reports of bin Laden's location.

With tongue in cheek, he added, "We do know of certain knowledge that he is either in Afghanistan or in some other country, or dead. And we know of certain knowledge that we don't know which of those happens to be the case."

The airing of a videotape earlier this week showing a frail-looking bin Laden prompted a flurry of reports on his whereabouts. The White House said it would not comment on the reports, repeating President Bush's comment that bin Laden will be found and brought to justice.



 
 
 
 



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