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Osama Bin Ladens alive and well - Report

AlJazeera | June 19 2005

A key commander in the former leadership of Afghanistan said that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar are both alive and in good health after more than three years on the run.

"He is absolutely fine, there is no problem, but I will not tell where he is," Mullah Akhtar Usmani said when asked about bin Laden in an interview broadcast on Wednesday by Pakistan's private GEO television.

Usmani further confirmed that Mullah Omar remained in command of the Taliban.

The commander held a Kalashnikov and his face was partly hidden during the interview. The station did not say where or when it was carried out.

Geo said the interview was recorded last week, but declined to say where.

But a senior journalist at the independent station said on condition of anonymity that the interview was done near the Afghan town of Spinboldak, which is close to the Pakistani border.

Omar was "alive and healthy and there is no trouble," said the former deputy, adding: "He is still our commander and issuing directions."

"I would not tell whether or not I have met him, but I listen to his voice, he gives us directions," Usmani said in the interview.

Bin Laden and a number of other Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders are thought to be hiding in the rugged tribal areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

His health has been the subject of speculation, amid reports that he was suffering from kidney disease. However in a video aired late last year before the U.S. presidential election he appeared to be in good condition.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said Tuesday during a visit to Australia that bin Laden was alive, while Zalmay Khalilzad, the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Kabul, said he was disappointed that bin Laden had not been captured.

Usmani said he was in constant contact with the military and political leadership of the Taliban, adding that they hold regular meetings.

"There are regular meetings but Mullah Omar does not attend. For decisions contacts are made with him," Usmani said.

According to Usmani, though the group had lost around 400 to 500 men since late 2001 "80 percent of the Afghan people are with us."

He said that members of the toppled regime were active in all parts of Afghanistan, particularly in the eastern, southern and southwestern provinces.

Recent incidents have borne out that claim.

Officials said Afghan soldiers backed by U.S. troops killed seven Taliban and injured 10 others on Tuesday in the southern province of Kandahar, the regime's former stronghold.

Four U.S. soldiers were injured by a car bomb near Kandahar city on Monday, less than two weeks after an attack at a mosque there killed 21 people.

The mosque blast came during the funeral of key cleric Maulvi Abdullah Fayyaz, alleged to have been killed by members of the Taliban because he had called for Omar to be stripped of his status as supreme leader of Afghanistan's faithful.




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