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Mohammed's capture offers few bin Laden clues

From Ash-har Quraishi
CNN

There still appears to be little specific evidence about Osama bin Laden's location, despite the arrest of al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
There still appears to be little specific evidence about Osama bin Laden's location, despite the arrest of al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

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CNN's Ash-har Quraishi reports on Pakistani efforts to apprehend Osama bin Laden after the capture of al Qaeda's operations chief. (March 10)
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SPECIAL REPORT

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) -- The arrest March 1 of alleged al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has reinvigorated the hunt for his boss, Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man.

But after Mohammed's capture in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, there still appears to be little specific information about bin Laden's whereabouts.

U.S. officials said they have evidence that Mohammed had been in touch with bin Laden since September 11, 2001, but they declined to say whether they believe he has had recent contact with the al Qaeda leader.

Last week, immediately following Mohammed's arrest, bin Laden's pursuers focused their attention along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

U.S. officials recently told CNN that 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.

Despite the presence of tens of thousands of Pakistani troops, the border remains porous, according to a former Pakistani intelligence chief.

"These borders cannot be closed," said Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, "because you have to understand the ethnic nature of this area, the demography of the region, the nature of the terrain and the psyche of the people. So, the same tribes live on one side and the other side."

Pockets of al Qaeda members are hiding in lawless areas along Pakistan's western border, where ethnic tribes often maintain more constant control than Pakistan's government, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

Criticism of Pakistan's efforts to capture wanted al Qaeda members baffle Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

"We've apprehended more than 480 people and I don't know who's talking about this, that Pakistan is dragging its feet or that Pakistan is going slow," Musharraf said. "Nobody has apprehended so many."

In addition to Mohammed, Pakistan's list of al Qaeda arrests includes former operations chief Abu Zubaydah and suspected September 11 plotter Ramzi Bin al-Shibh.

Notably, all three arrests were made in the Pakistani cities of Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Karachi -- not the no man's land on the nation's western border.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested March 1 in Pakistan.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested March 1 in Pakistan.

Musharraf said this information does not indicate to him that bin Laden himself may be hiding among residents of Pakistan's teeming cities.

"It does not give an indication, because Osama bin Laden is a different personality," he said. "He wouldn't be hiding alone or with another colleague of his in one room."

Musharraf -- who at one time said he believed bin Laden was dead as a result of kidney disease -- said he now thinks the Saudi exile is alive, based on "all the information that we have."

"I presume, if he's alive ... he would be moving with ... many bodyguards," Musharraf said.


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