rumour hits fever pitch
A French regional newspaper, L’Est Republicain, on Saturday published a French intelligence report that said Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan last month.
THE STORY cited a September 21 report by the DGSE, France’s foreign intelligence agency. It quoted from the report: “According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi security services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead.”
It went on: “Information gathered by the Saudis” shows Osama “might have succumbed to a very serious case of typhoid... resulting in partial paralysis of his lower limbs while in Pakistan on August 23, 2006.”
“His... constant fleeing is believed to have made medical assistance impossible.” The article said first reports came on September 4, but “further details and... the exact place of burial” were not known then.
THE REPORT “cannot be confirmed,” said a French defence ministry statement.
BUT French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie ordered an investigation “to determine the source of this leak”, indicating the DGSE report cited was authentic.
THE AILMENT, typhoid, is not known to lead to paralysis, Indian medical experts said.
BUT it can lead to a stroke, that may result in paralysis.
THE LAST OSAMA VIDEOTAPE came in November 2004; the last audiotape in April 23 this year, in which he referred to George W. Bush’s visit to India. These dates do not contradict the report.
BUT earlier reports of his death have been contradicted by tapes.
THE SAUDIS questioned the report. “Pakistan and America would know first, not us,” said a Saudi official. US and Pakistani governments said they knew nothing of the French report.
BUT Saudis have many ISI officials in their pocket who could have leaked the data. Terrorism expert B. Raman said, “The most authentic source for bin Laden’s death would be his family.” Most members of Bin Laden’s family live in Saudi Arabia.
LAST WORD: Previous claims of bin Laden’s death were followed by audiotapes rebutting the claim. Western intelligence, said Raman, never confirm this unless they see a body.
BUT either route could take up to months.