Bin Laden and No 2 under Pakistani protection: Nato

KABUL – Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in houses in northwest Pakistan, CNN reported last night.

CNN quoted a senior Nato official as saying the al Qaeda leader and his deputy were hiding close to each other but were not together.

“Nobody in al Qaeda is living in a cave,” it quoted the unnamed official as saying.

Instead, al Qaeda’s leaders were being protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani intelligence services and were living in relative comfort. Pakistan denies protecting high-ranking members of al Qaeda.

The official said that in recent years bin Laden was likely to have moved around ranges from the mountainous Chitral area, in the far northwest of Pakistan near the Chinese border, to the Kurram Valley. Bin Laden is believed to have escaped from the Tora Bora region during the United States bombing raid in late 2001.

The area that the official describes covers hundreds of square kilometres of some of the most rugged terrain in Pakistan and is inhabited by fiercely independent tribes.

CNN said the official would not discuss how Nato had come to know any of bin Laden’s whereabouts but said that he had access to some of the most sensitive information in the Nato alliance.

In recent weeks, the al Qaeda online magazine Inspire, which featured a foreword by bin Laden, called for Muslims to attack Americans and gave advice on how to best cause casualties, while an audio recording attributed to bin Laden said Pakistanis should do more to help those affected by the floods. He also talked about his concerns over global warming.

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