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Pentagon Rejects Claims bin Laden has Fled Afghanistan

Aired November 17, 2001 - 11:25   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: The most wanted man in the world, suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, may be on the move. We want to get the latest now from the Pentagon's viewpoint on this.

For that, we turn to Jonathan Aiken -- Jonathan.

JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Marty, Pentagon officials have seen the same reports that we have seen, both on The Associated Press and Al-Jazeera television. The response from the Pentagon quite terse. "Our search continues" was the quote from spokesman Glenn Flood, who told us, just consider the source. He said the Taliban has, in the past, tried to misdirect the hunt for bin Laden, who is the subject, of course, of an intense manhunt by U.S. Special Forces operating within the country.

The Pentagon says it has no indication that bin Laden has left, though Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, speaking in Chicago yesterday, answered a reporter's question, saying it was entirely possible that bin Laden could have left. He said it was possible to hide a helicopter within ravines or travel in areas where you can't be seen, or possibly even cross a porous border on the back of a mule or a donkey.

But the response, officially anyway, Marty, to the reports coming out of the border area today is that they're skeptical at best, and they believe that bin Laden remains in the country -- Marty.

SAVIDGE: Jonathan, I asked this of David Ensor; I'll ask this of you as well and see if the Pentagon has any response -- whether this political morass or confusion in the Kandahar area may be in some respects a delaying tactic on the part of the Taliban to effort (sic) an opportunity for Osama bin Laden to flee.

AIKEN: Nobody's speaking to that specifically, though we did take Carol's reporting and some of the things that Carol has been reporting from Quetta and take that to Pentagon officials for their comment. And they thought it was interesting, this concept of tribal law operating in Kandahar and the possibility of some kind of usurption of power on the local level.

But did they see anything broader in this? No, not necessarily. They thought that that was a tribal issue, perhaps, and didn't necessarily affect U.S. troops that were on the ground.

SAVIDGE: All right, Jonathan Aiken giving us the latest from the vantage point of the Pentagon. Thanks very much.

AIKEN: Sure thing.

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