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Massoud is alive, says brother

Massoud's forces control less than 5 percent of Afghanistan's territory  

LONDON (CNN) -- Conflicting reports are circulating regarding whether the leader of Afghanistan's opposition to the ruling Taliban, Ahmed Shah Massoud, is still alive.

Ahmed Wali Massoud told CNN his brother is recovering from wounds suffered in an assassination attempt Sunday that left him unconscious for at least 10 hours.

But U.S. officials say they have reliable information that Massoud was killed in the attack.

A spokesman for Massoud's Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban alliance in northern Afghanistan, said the rebel commander was being interviewed by two Arab journalists when their television camera exploded, killing the journalists and an aide to Massoud.

CNN's Nic Robertson looks at Ahmed Shah Massoud who has been standing in the way of a Taliban takeover of the whole of Afghanistan.(September 11)

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Massoud's right leg was severely wounded, two pieces of shrapnel lodged in his head, his face was burned and his fingers were injured, his brother said.

He said the attack left his brother unconscious for 10 to 15 hours, fueling speculation about his death.

"That is one of the reasons why there was so much confusion," he told CNN. "Until the last couple of hours, me myself, as his brother, didn't know his condition."

Better situation

The rebel commander was taken to a Tajikistan hospital, where he is now able to eat and talk, his brother said in a telephone interview from his London home. "He's in a much better situation now."

He added that he hasn't spoken with his brother, but said he learned about his condition from hospital representatives and other relatives who have visited him.

Aides to the Northern Alliance also said Massoud survived the attack.

U.S. officials placed the organization headed by fugitive terrorist leader Osama bin Laden high on the list of suspects in the attack.

If Massoud is dead, the U.S. officials said, there may be a period of infighting among commanders of his alliance that would help the Taliban strengthen their hold on the country.

Taliban claim no involvement

Taliban officials said they played no role in the assassination attempt and gave no indication that they believe he is dead.

U.S. officials say the two journalists involved in the assassination attempt were Algerians. Other Algerians have been connected in testimony in U.S. courts with bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan, presumably under the protection of the Taliban.

A spokesman for Massoud, who gave his name only as Nasser, said earlier that Massoud received injuries to his head, one arm and one leg.

Nasser said an adviser in Massoud's foreign ministry, Engineer Mohammed Amir Sohail, was killed and his ambassador to India, Masood Khalili, was wounded.

Massoud, a former defense minister under the deposed government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, fled to the hills of northern Afghanistan after the Taliban Islamic militia captured Kabul in 1996.

The Taliban control about 95 percent of Afghanistan's territory and engage in frequent clashes with the coalition of ethnic Uzbek and Tajik commanders that make up Massoud's forces.

--CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.

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