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Pakistan Says Letters Indicate Bin Laden Still Alive - 2003-03-05


Pakistani officials say they have found several hand-written letters from Osama bin Laden that indicate he is alive and hiding in or near Pakistan.

A security official says the letters were found Saturday when Pakistani agents arrested the accused al-Qaida operations mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, near Islamabad.

Pakistan's Interior Minister, Faisal Saleh Hayat, says Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan. But U-S based Time magazine quotes Pakistani intelligence sources who say the al-Qaida chief could be in Pakistan's northern tribal territory or even in Islamabad.

U-S officials have cited the rugged, remote territory along the Afghan-Pakistani border as a likely hideout for senior al-Qaida members.

In interviews Tuesday, Interior Minister Hayat said the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has turned up clues that could help Pakistan dismantle the al-Qaida network for good. U-S and Pakistani intelligence have been sifting through materials seized in the raid, which reportedly include a laptop computer and lists of telephone numbers.

Officials from both countries say the suspect has begun to talk to interrogators, but has not revealed any information he might have about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts.

Meanwhile, an Iranian spokesman is denying Time magazine's report that Iran has "probably" given shelter to Osama bin Laden's wives and children. The spokesman (Abdollah Ramezanzadeh) says Iran is not a land of asylum for any terrorist. He said anyone with proof that people linked to al-Qaida are hiding in Iran should give it to Iranian intelligence.

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