‘Osama nearly caught in Afghanistan’
PARIS: Osama Bin Laden has escaped capture in Afghanistan several times and may be linked in some way to the Madrid train attacks that killed 200 people, the French chief of defence staff said on Monday.
General Henri Bentegeat said about 200 French troops were operating with US forces in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
“Our men were not very far. On several occasions, I even think he slipped out of a net that was quite well closed,” he told Europe 1 radio. Bentegeat said the country’s difficult terrain explained why it was so hard to catch the world’s most wanted man.
“In Afghanistan, the terrain is extremely favourable to escapes, there are underground networks everywhere,” he said. The general said it was essential that Bin Laden be caught. But he added that arresting Bin Laden “would not change things directly. Al Qaeda is a hydra with many heads. If we catch one head, there will be others”.
Bentegeat said the minute preparations needed for the Madrid bombings were “the clearest indication” that Al Qaeda was probably behind them. He said the threat of Islamic radicalism was spreading beyond the Middle East. “It is a phenomenon we are seeing step by step in Africa,” he said. —Reuters