June 16, 2005 in Nation/World

Bin Laden, Omar alive and well, Taliban leader says in interview

Sadaqat Jan Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar are alive and well, a purported Taliban commander said in a TV interview broadcast Wednesday, adding that he still receives orders from Omar.

Pakistan’s Geo television broadcast the interview with the man it identified as Taliban military commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani, a former Afghan aviation minister.

A black turban shielded the man’s face, making it impossible to recognize him or verify his identity. He wore a gray jacket, and an AK-47 rifle was propped next to him as he spoke in front of a red-patterned, Afghan-style rug.

In response to a question, the man said he would not specify where bin Laden was hiding.

“Thanks be to God, he is absolutely fine,” he said.

The man said the Taliban are still organized and senior Taliban leaders hold regular consultations. “Our discipline is strong. We have regular meetings. We make programs,” he said.

He said Omar does not attend the meetings but “decisions come from his side.” He did not say where those meetings take place.

Geo said the interview was recorded last week, but declined to say where.

In Washington, a U.S. intelligence official said: “The belief in the intelligence community is that he’s (bin Laden) still in the tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border.”

It seemed reasonable to believe that former Taliban officials still gather to meet, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

© Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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