Bin Laden likely killed in caves


Terror suspect Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan and was probably killed in the US bombardment of caves in eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has told state television in China .

"Maybe he is dead because of all the operations that have been conducted, the bombardment of all the caves that have been conducted, there's a great possibility that he may have lost his life there," said Mr Musharraf on Saturday while on a visit to China.

He added that Pakistan had stepped up security along its porous border with Afghanistan in a bid to capture the suspected terrorist mastermind, if still alive, and his key leaders. "We have huge borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

"The Tora Bora region in which he was supposed to be operating has . . . about eight passes leading into Pakistan over mountains at a height of about 13,000 to 14,000 feet . . . We are guarding each one of these passes.

"If he does enter, if we identify him, he will be handed over."

US and Afghan forces have been searching for signs of bin Laden, the main suspect in the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington, around Tora Bora since forces from his al-Qaeda network fled last weekend.

"He is not in Pakistan, that we are reasonably sure, we cannot be 100 per cent sure, but we have sealed the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Mr Musharraf said.

US warplanes and Afghan forces had launched extensive attacks on the network of caves where al-Qaeda members had been hiding out.

An Afghan commander in charge in the Tora Bora region said on Saturday that bin Laden had probably gone to Pakistan.

"My personal feeling is that Osama bin Laden has left for Pakistan," said Cmdr Haji Musa, whose forces are deployed in the White Mountain range.

The Pentagon has said it has no idea where bin Laden is although it believes he was in the Tora Bora region until recently.

In the interview, Mr Musharraf again reiterated Pakistan's pledge to support the interim Afghanistan government in accordance with the Bonn accords brokered earlier this month by the international community.

"We support the Bonn accord . . . this is a good start to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan," Mr Musharraf said.

"You cannot impose a solution in Afghan, you can only facilitate," he added.