U.S. diplomat: Bin Laden not in Afghanistan
(CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said Thursday that he does not believe Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar are in the central Asian country.
Zalmay Khalilzad's remarks came a day after a purported Taliban military commander told a Pakistani TV station that the two men were "alive and well."
"Mullah Omar is not in Afghanistan," Khalilzad said at a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul. "I don't believe that Osama is in Afghanistan."
The U.S. diplomat did not say where he thought either of the two might be.
American officials have said they believe the men are somewhere in the mountains that line the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The Taliban ruled much of Afghanistan from the mid-1990s until an American-led coalition drove the group from power in November 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
Speaking on camera Wednesday with Pakistan's private television station GEO, Mullah Akhtar Usmani, a self-proclaimed senior Taliban commander, said Omar was in good health.
"The rumors of his illness have been spread by our enemies," Usmani said.
Usmani, who said he's a member of the Taliban leadership council, declined to say if Omar takes part in any of that group's meetings.
"I would not like to reveal the fact whether we meet or not, but what I can tell you is that I am still getting instructions from him," he said.
As for al Qaeda leader bin Laden, Usmani said he also was alive and well.
"Yes, he is absolutely fine, but I would not tell you where he is," he said.
It's impossible to confirm if Usmani has access to information about bin Laden, but the Taliban has been involved in protecting the al Qaeda leader in the past.
"I don't know how much operationally in charge Osama bin Laden is of the network," said Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador. "But symbolically [it is] very important that he's brought to justice. Sooner or later I believe firmly that he will be caught."
Visiting Washington last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai also denied the fugitive terrorist leader was in his country.
"If he were, we would catch him," he said. (Full story)