DUBAI (Reuters) – A top Taliban leader in Pakistan said in remarks aired on Saturday his group would protect and guard al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri if they turned up in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
“I have not met Osama or Zawahri and they did not come to our region. We hope to see them and if they show up in our area we will protect them with our bodies and souls,” Mullah Mohammad Nazir told Al Jazeera television in remarks dubbed into Arabic.
U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte said on Thursday al Qaeda leaders were holed up in a secure hide-out in Pakistan, but the government there says the United States has not given it any information about their presence in Pakistan.
Negroponte told the U.S. Senate select committee on intelligence that Pakistan was the centre of an al Qaeda web that radiated out to the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
Pakistani newspapers said last month Nazir had been appointed as Taliban chief in the country’s tribal area bordering Afghanistan.