KABUL (AFP) – The US military and NATO peacekeeping forces have dismissed reports carried on Islamic websites that Osama bin Laden had been injured in western Afghanistan.
US spokesman Colonel James Yonts said that his military had checked claims that the Al-Qaeda leader had been wounded by Spanish troops based in the western province of Herat.
"When we looked into that report — you know any allegation such as this, we take it very seriously — we found no proof," US spokesman Colonel James Yonts told reporters in Kabul.
The claim first surfaced on August 24 in a story on Italian news website Adnkronos International.
It quoted two messages carried by "various Islamic websites," the first of which said Bin Laden had been wounded in a clash with the Spaniards while the second gave details including that the injury was to his left leg.
In May, Islamic websites were used to give the news that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Al-Qaeda”s pointman in Iraq, had been wounded. An audio message confirming the injury was later attributed to Zarqawi himself.
The NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan, which has hundreds of Spanish troops based in Herat, also ruled out that any of its troops had injured bin Laden, who has a 50 million dollar US bounty on his head.
"I”m afraid that was just a rumour. No truth in it," NATO spokesman in Kabul Major Andy Elmes said.
A Spanish helicopter crashed near Herat on August 16, killing all 17 Spanish peacekeepers aboard. Madrid has said there were no signs of an attack.
Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States, has evaded capture for almost four years since US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to hunt him down and topple his backers, the Taliban regime.
However, Yonts said that the 19,000-strong US-led coalition will continue to hunt for the Saudi, who is widely believed to be hiding along the rugged Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
"We want nothing more than to bring that man to justice, there is no doubt about that, and we”re doing everything inside Afghanistan, and through the help of the border central Asian states as well, looking for that individual," Yonts said.