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Search for bin Laden tightens in Pakistan

From David Ensor and Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

U.S. officials said the search for bin Laden has been narrowed to a few Pakistani provinces in the northwest.
U.S. officials said the search for bin Laden has been narrowed to a few Pakistani provinces in the northwest.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An aggressive search for Osama bin Laden may be getting closer to capturing the fugitive al Qaeda leader in northwest Pakistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials said Thursday.

U.S. officials said the search for bin Laden has been narrowed to a few Pakistani provinces in the northwest including Waziristan, and tribal and frontier provinces north of it.

Reports by The Associated Press and ABC News that the search for bin Laden has narrowed to the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan are wrong, officials said.

"He is not down there," said a knowledgeable official. The official also said a report that bin Laden had used a local telephone in Baluchistan to call a family member, and thus allowed himself to be pinpointed "is incorrect."

Also on Thursday, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf told CNN that authorities have "evidence and information" indicating bin Laden is most likely alive.

"All that Pakistan can do, we are doing to the best of our ability," Gen. Musharraf said.

Bin Laden is considered the most wanted man in the world for his role in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials are following up on numerous leads from the materials seized Saturday when al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was captured. A senior U.S. official says Mohammed has begun giving his interrogators "information that is of some use." (Special Report)

Bush applauded the arrest of Mohammed in Pakistan in his remarks, "Khalid Shaikh Mohammed conceived and planned the hijackings and directed the actions of the hijackers. We believe his capture will further disrupt the terror network and their planning for additional attacks."

Mohammed: Being questioned in a secret location
Mohammed: Being questioned in a secret location

Unlike Mohammed, who was captured in a home in an Islamabad suburb, bin Laden is likely in a more remote area, along with a contingent of bodyguards, Musharraf told CNN.

"He wouldn't be hiding alone, or with another colleague of his in one room of a house," the Pakistani president said. "He would need a sanctuary, he would need a bigger area. He wouldn't be moving in a city."

When Mohammed was captured, officials say, his laptop computer, cell phones, notebooks and an address book -- materials one U.S. source has called a "treasure trove" of intelligence -- were found.

Suspect: Bin Laden dead AND alive

The New York Times quoted Pakistani security officials as saying material seized during the raid that netted Mohammed showed he had met with bin Laden in February, possibly in Rawalpindi, the city near Islamabad where the al Qaeda operations chief was captured Saturday.

In Islamabad Thursday, a Musharraf spokesman told CNN that Mohammed gave Pakistani officials conflicting information about bin Laden.

Major Gen. Rashid Qureshi said Mohammed first told Pakistani authorities that bin Laden was alive, then later said he was dead. Qureshi denied reports that Mohammed said bin Laden was living in Pakistan.

Mohammed has been transferred to U.S. custody since his capture. He is being interrogated with "all appropriate pressure" at an undisclosed location outside both the United States and Pakistan.

Mohammed is believed to have been a key planner of the September 11 terrorist attacks and his name has been linked to al Qaeda atrocities in Asia, Africa and Europe. (Life of terror)

The FBI has warned that Mohammed's capture could spark terror attacks already being planned but they also believe his arrest deals a long-term blow to al Qaeda's planning capabilities. (Full story)

CNN's Islamabad Bureau Chief Ash-har Quraishi contributed to this report.


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