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General: Osama, insurgency trying to communicate

U.S. doubts attempts by bin Laden, al-Zarqawi have succeeded


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The deputy commanding general of the U.S. Central Command has said he believes wanted terrorists Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden have been trying to communicate with each other, as U.S. and Iraqi troops fight to oust hard-core insurgents in Falluja.

"Whether or not they've been successful because of the huge distances involved in those lines of communication, I would say that they probably have not been," Lt. Gen. Lance Smith told reporters at the Pentagon.

Smith said those attempts to communicate would be hampered by the slow means they have to rely on, such as couriers carrying CDs from al Qaeda leaders to Zarqawi, or the use of television to send messages.

"We know for a fact that there are attempted communications between them, and they would have to be conducted over the kinds of lines that I just described," he said.

Smith said there definitely is a relationship between the two men, but added, "How to characterize that, we don't know yet."

While Smith said he had no multi-source intelligence that Zarqawi and bin Laden were trying to stay in touch, but "we do have indications that we believe they are trying to communicate."

"And whether it is to congratulate him (Zarqawi) on having announced that he wants to be part of al Qaeda or whether it's to communicate and give him instructions or what it is, we don't know."

U.S. and Iraqi forces have been battling insurgents in Falluja since early this month, seeking terrorists like Zarqawi.

The military says it is likely that he escaped before troops entered the city.

"I think Zarqawi sort of left his followers in the city to fight and he booked," Smith said.

"That's what I think. I don't have any proof that he's someplace else, but we believe he did leave the city."

Smith said he believed Zarqawi was still in Iraq.

"I think it's going to take awhile before we can really say that the leadership of the insurgent efforts escaped Falluja. The others that got out, we clearly believe some of them went into Ramadi" -- another city within the Sunni Triangle where insurgents have waged a tough fight.

Bin Laden's whereabouts remain unknown, although intelligence experts have said he is believed to be in tribal regions of Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan when the Taliban government was toppled in December 2001.


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