DUBAI (Reuters) – Dubai-based Al Arabiya television on Tuesday quoted a Taliban official as saying al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was alive and in good health.
The Arabic channel said its Pakistan bureau had received a call from the unnamed Taliban official a few days after a leaked French secret document said Saudi intelligence believed bin Laden died last month in Pakistan.
“The official said bin Laden was alive and that reports that he is ill are not true,” said Bakr Atyani, Al Arabiya’s Islamabad correspondent. “The Taliban checked with members who are close to al Qaeda that these reports are baseless.”
Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was last seen in a video statement aired to coincide with the November 2004 U.S. presidential elections.
A report in French regional daily L’Est Republicain last week quoted a document from the DGSE foreign intelligence service, saying the Saudi secret services were convinced bin Laden had died of typhoid.
Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it had no evidence that bin Laden was dead. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said that as far as he knew the Saudi-born militant was alive.
Bin Laden has issued several audio messages in the past two years, the last one in July 2006 in which he vowed al Qaeda would fight the United States anywhere in the world.
The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to flush out al Qaeda and the government of the hard-line Islamic Taliban movement that supported it after the militant network carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.