Osama captured in Pakistan: Iranian state radio
* Pakistani and American officials deny report
TEHRAN: Osama Bin Laden has been captured in a tribal area of Pakistan, the external Pashto-language service of Iranian state radio reported on Saturday quoting an “informed source”, stated AFP.
The report, which could not be independently verified, said the alleged arrest took place “some time ago” but gave no further details.
It went on to claim that US officials were keeping news of the arrest secret and were likely to announce it later in the year — in order to help US President George Bushh’s re-election chances in November polls, AFP added. “The capture of the Al Qaeda leader was made some time ago, but President Bush is intending to announce it at the time of the American presidential election,” the report claimed.
The report said US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s visit to Afghanistan during the week was made to follow up on Bin Laden’s alleged arrest.
Iran state radio’s main news channel - the Farsi-language service for Iranian listeners - did not carry the Bin Laden report. Iran state television also did not carry the report. Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan said reports on the capture of Osama Bin Laden were not correct. Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan also said, “There was no report of Bin Laden’s arrest from Pakistan’s tribal areas.”
Staff Report adds: Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri on Saturday contradicted news reports on the capture of Osama Bin Laden. Addressing a joint press conference with his French counterpart, Dominique de Villepin, Mr Kasuri said, “I have just heard about the reports, but Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan has told me that they are incorrect.” Asked whether the Wana operation was initiated after the US had handed over a list of 53 wanted people, Mr Kasuri said Pakistan had not received any such list from the US.
APP adds: Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also contradicted reports of Osama Bin Laden’s arrest or of keeping him in Pakistan. “These reports have no substance as Osama had neither been arrested nor being kept in Pakistan,” he added.
Reuters adds: The US Department of Defence and Pentagon officials denied reports by Iran’s official IRNA news agency on Saturday that Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has been captured.
IRNA quoted a story on Iran’s state radio Pashtun service that reported “a very reliable source” as saying Bin Laden had been captured in a tribal area of Pakistan.
A senior US defence official denied the report, saying it was “another piece of stray voltage that’s passing around out there”.
The Iranian correspondent responsible for the report said the radio had also reported Bin Laden’s capture a year ago. But said a new source had told him on Friday the Al Qaeda leader had been captured “a long time ago”. He said the reason US officials had denied the report was so that they could time the release of the news of Bin Laden’s capture to help boost President George Bush’s chances of re-election at presidential polls in November.
The US military said this month that US-led troops in Afghanistan were moving toward coordinated operations along the border – “a hammer and anvil approach” — to prevent fleeing Al Qaeda fighters from escaping simply by crossing from one country into the other. —Agencies