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Leader Says That Bin Laden is Not With J.U.I. in Pakistan

Aired December 27, 2001 - 11:00   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We're juggling two different reports right now, trying to make sense out of both of them. About an hour and a half ago, there was Reuters report that came out that said the spokesperson for the Afghan defense minister said that Osama bin Laden has fled to Pakistan, and right now he is under custody and protection of a radical Islamic group.

However, when contacting that group by way of CNN, the leader of that group, who has been in custody of Pakistan authorities for the past three months, he says it's absolutely not true. In fact, he said he is scoffing at those reports. Let's get up to Kabul, several hundred miles north of here, the Afghan capital and CNN's John Vause who is also tracking this story from there. John, what are you hearing?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Bill, a short time ago, just moments ago, CNN contacted that spokesman for the defense minister herein Kabul, Mohammed Abil (ph). He confirmed the story for us, he told us that, in fact, he believes that Osama bin Laden is, in fact, in Pakistan under the protection of that leader of the J.U.I. Party, Maulana Fazalur Rehman.

He would not give us any information about where he was getting his sources, where he was getting that information from, and as you did say, when contacted by CNN, Maulana Rehman said, in fact, that he has been in government custody for the last three months, so -- quote -- "how could I give anyone protection?" But it is important to note that, in fact, yes, he has been under house arrest by the Pakistani government for quite some time now.

But still the J.U.I. Party, under his leadership, managed to organize those mass protests across Pakistan, those pro-Taliban protests that we saw across Pakistan, when the U.S, bombing campaign began on October 7. Another point to raise in all of this is the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf was asked last week in China if he thought that Osama bin Laden was, in fact, in Pakistan.

He thought that he was fairly positive that bin Laden was not in Pakistan. He even raised the possibility that, he thought it was quite a good possibility, that, in fact, bin Laden was dead. So, just to repeat, we have confirmed the story from the Defense Ministry him -- the spokesman of the Defense Ministry himself. He would not reveal his sources to CNN, and as you have already said, the people on the other side of the border are, in fact, denying that they have had any contact with bin Laden -- Bill.

HEMMER: Interesting development. John Vause there live in Kabul, watching the story from there. John, thanks to you, and again we should be pointing out and repeating that we have heard different reports and different rumors for weeks now. It appears almost on a daily basis, day-to-day we hear a different one and a new one, but at this time no one can say for sure what's happening now with Osama bin Laden.

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