Washington: The United States has said it
has no idea where top al Qaeda commanders Osama bin Laden and
his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding, a day after a report
claimed that the two fugitives are living in houses in
northwest Pakistan under ISI protection.
"I don`t think we know where they are. If we knew
where they are I think we`d do something about it," Deputy
Secretary of Defence William Lynn told the popular Charlie
Rose show in interview.
Lynn was responding to a CNN report which quoted an
unnamed NATO official in Afghanistan that Osama is not hiding
in the caves, but has been provided a safe shelter by ISI
elements at a secure location inside Pakistan.
"I don`t think so. I think it was either an
exaggeration in the telling or an exaggeration in the
promotion of that. I don`t think we know precisely where bin
Laden is, and I don`t think the report`s accurate," Lynn said,
adding that he has not seen the news report that elements in
ISI was providing shelter to the top al Qaeda leaders.
"Well, there are elements in the ISI that are engaged
in things that are not helping (the war against terrorism).
What all of those are, we do not know exactly. So I would not
deny or express concern over news report saying that bin Laden
is being assisted by elements in ISI," Pentagon spokesman
David Lapan told reporters.
The CNN in its news report from Kabul quoted a senior
NATO official as saying that Osama and his deputy Zawahiri are
believed to be hiding close to each other in houses in
northwest Pakistan, but are not together.
"Nobody in al Qaeda is living in a cave," the official
was quoted as saying by the CNN.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied protecting members of
the al Qaeda leadership.
The official said the general region where Osama is
likely to have moved around in recent years ranges from the
mountainous Chitral area in the far northwest near the Chinese
border, to the Kurram Valley which neighbours Afghanistan`s
Tora Bora, one of the Taliban strongholds during the US
invasion in 2001.
Pakistan`s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, however,
denied that the two men are on Pakistani soil, but said that
any information to the contrary should be shared with
Pakistani officials so that they can take "immediate
action" to arrest the pair.