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Posted: 2/23/2002 7:47:31 PM EDT
US Thinks Bin Laden Alive on Afghan Border-Report Sat Feb 23,10:52 PM ET NEW YORK (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden survived U.S. bombing raids on Tora Bora and other mountainous Afghan regions and probably remains hidden in the remote terrain straddling Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing senior Bush administration officials. The Times reported that unidentified senior administration officials said they have new indications that the Saudi-born extremist blamed by the United States for the Sept. 11 attacks remains at large in the border area. The evidence casts doubt on earlier theories that bin Laden had been killed in the war, died of kidney disease or fled to Iran or Yemen. The officials cited by the newspaper said the fresh assessment of bin Laden's whereabouts is based on information gained within the past month. A senior administration official said the new evidence was "very fragile" and refused to provide further details. But the Times quoted the official as saying: "We are quite certain he is alive and we think he is somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It may be that he moves back and forth between the two." The newspaper said other officials said the area where bin Laden might be hiding was in southeastern Afghanistan and adjacent tribal areas of the Pakistani provinces of the Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan that have been strongholds of Islamic militancy and deeply suspicious of outside interference. The Times said the Bush administration is not claiming to have bin Laden cornered. It quoted on official as saying capturing or killing Mr. bin Laden appeared to be "a long-term proposition." Defense officials cited by the newspaper said none of the recent information has been specific enough to mount new attacks on suspected hide-outs like the bombardment of Tora Bora in November and December, and around the city of Khost farther south in January. A senior official told the Times that a review of the U.S. military action in Afghanistan has concluded that "we've probably gotten about a third of the core leadership" of bin Laden's al Qaeda guerrilla group. The White House now defines the scope of that leadership as between 20 and 25 key figures
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