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U.S. can't confirm arrest of bin Laden's sons

Officials: Special forces seeking al Qaeda leader in Pakistan

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U.S. officials say the search for Osama bin Laden has been narrowed to regions along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Pakistani provincial official said Friday that two of Osama bin Laden's sons were among those captured in a U.S.-led raid in southwestern Afghanistan, but U.S. and local officials are disputing the report.

Earlier Friday, The Associated Press and Reuters news services quoted Sanaullah Zehri, Pakistan's home minister in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, as saying that two men, believed to be bin Laden's sons, were arrested near Rabat.

The area is where the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran meet.

Zehri later told CNN that an exchange of fire across the border in Afghanistan resulted in casualties and arrests, but that he did not know if any of those held were relatives of bin Laden.

The wire services also quoted Zehri as saying seven other al Qaeda members were killed in the raid.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer played down the claims, saying: "We have no information to substantiate that report."

A U.S. military spokesman at Bagram Air Base said he could not confirm reports about bin Laden's sons and denied that U.S. and other coalition forces were involved in any operation in Rabat, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, reports conflicted Friday about a search in Pakistan for bin Laden himself, a day after U.S. intelligence officials said the hunt for the fugitive al Qaeda leader has been narrowed to northern Pakistan.

Officials told CNN on Friday that, despite reports to the contrary, Baluchistan could be ruled out as a possible location.

U.S. sources told CNN that members of the Joint Special Operations Command -- the most covert of U.S. military special forces -- are patrolling the Afghan border in northwest Pakistan.

On Thursday, U.S. officials said the search is concentrated in a few regions in northwestern Pakistan, including Waziristan, and tribal and frontier provinces in the north that border Afghanistan.

CIA Director George Tenet has described the region as "lawless zones, veritable no man's lands ... where extremist movements find shelter and can win the breathing space to grow."

'We don't know where is Osama'

But Friday, Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid denied the report. "There is no operation going on, there is no search going on, and we don't know where is Osama," Rashid told CNN. "If somebody knows [his whereabouts], let us know."

A highly placed source with the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence Agency also denied that such an operation was under way, saying he thought the U.S. reports might be a pressure tactic.

A Pakistani intelligence source told CNN on Friday that a few raids had been conducted in Baluchistan by U.S. and Pakistani authorities looking for al Qaeda members, but they were routine forays -- not part of a special operation. There were no arrests.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Thursday that authorities have "evidence and information" indicating that bin Laden is most likely alive.

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

In the past, Musharraf has said he believed bin Laden was dead, and Pakistani officials have repeatedly said they did not believe the al Qaeda leader was in their country.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials are following up leads from the materials captured Saturday along with al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. (Life of terror)

A senior U.S. official says Mohammed is giving his interrogators "information that is of some use."

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.

-- CNN Islamabad bureau chief Ash-har Quraishi contributed to this report.


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