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Is bin Laden dead or Alive?

French Defence Ministry refuses to confirm a local paper's report that Osama died in Pakistan this month.

india Updated: Sep 23, 2006 19:43 IST

A French newspaper today published what it said was a report by the country's intelligence services that said Saudi Arabia believes Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan this month.

France's Defence Ministry issued a statement saying the newspaper report "cannot be confirmed" and that Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie had ordered an investigation "to determine the source of this leak, which is a crime punishable by law."

France's foreign intelligence service, the DGSE, also refused to confirm the report, and no immediate official reaction was forthcoming from Saudi officials.

But European and Pakistani officials tracking bin Laden's whereabouts told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that the report could not be seen as reliable.

Often rumoured to be dead in the past - only to appear later in audio or video recordings - the leader of the Al-Qaeda terror network was believed to have taken refuge on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Previous reported rumours have said that he suffered from a kidney disorder and was in poor health.

The French regional newspaper l'Est Republicain published what it said was a DGSE report dated September 21.

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