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Tape: Bin Laden, Taliban chief alive

Osama bin Laden
The United States believes Osama bin Laden is hiding on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (CNN) -- Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban head Mullah Mohammed Omar are alive and well and calling on Muslims to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, an audiotape purportedly from the terrorist group has said.

The tape, attributed to al Qaeda spokesman Abdel Rahman al-Najdi, was broadcast Monday on Dubai-based Al Arabiya television. CNN cannot verify the tape's authenticity.

The voice in the recording said: "Sheikh Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar are well." It called on Iraqis to continue their fight against U.S. forces, promising to send more al Qaeda members to help them.

Noting U.S. efforts to enlist the help of allies for the mission in Iraq, the tape said it was a sign of failure when the U.S. called on coalition countries for support.

Turning to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, the tape said that al Qaeda had killed at least 1,200 American soldiers and promised more deaths until the troops left.

According to U.S. figures, the American military suffered 23 combat deaths during the war in Afghanistan, and since the Taliban regime was overthrown, 19 peacekeepers have died while on duty in Afghanistan, but only four of the deaths were due to "hostile actions."

The U.S. heads a coalition of about 12,500 troops and special forces in Afghanistan hunting remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda, mainly in the east and southeast of the country.

Working alongside them is a NATO-led force of 5,000 peacekeepers deployed in and around the capital, Kabul.

On Sunday, the head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, told CNN he believed "the noose is tightening" around bin Laden and ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Roberts, who receives regular briefings on terrorist threats, said reports indicated bin Laden was hiding in a mountainous tribal region on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

He said the al Qaeda leader was using couriers and other low-tech communication methods to evade U.S. surveillance.


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