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Pak dismisses rumours of Osama's presence

The comments came in response to a report suggesting that Chitral had become the latest site of interest in the hunt for Laden.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 17:14 IST

Pakistani authorities on Tuesday dismissed rumours that Osama bin Laden might have moved to the country's mountainous north to evade arrest, and that CIA or FBI agents had been operating there to hunt for clues about the Al-Qaeda leader.

"Neither is Osama here, nor do we have any information about the presence of men from the CIA or FBI in Chitral," said a senior local intelligence official.

Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao and police in Chitral -- a sedate mountain resort town 250 kilometers northwest of the capital, Islamabad -- also said they had no information on the whereabouts of bin Laden, long thought to be hiding further south in volatile tribal regions where Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants are active.

The comments from Pakistani officials came in response to a report in Tuesday's New York Times suggesting that Chitral had become the latest site of interest in the hunt for bin Laden.

The town is often visited by trekkers and mountaineers exploring the spectacular peaks of the Hindu Kush, near the border with northeastern Afghanistan.

The newspaper quoted a lawmaker from the town, Abdul Akbar Chitrali, as saying agents from the FBI or CIA had arrived there to look for bin Laden.

"They came on the basis of a very fabricated report that some Arabs came down from the mountains in a jeep and visited the bazaar," the newspaper quoted him as saying, "and on that basis they established an office of the FBI because bin Laden might be hiding in that area."

The police chief in Chitral, Fazal Elahi, told the agency that some Americans had stayed in the town recently and police had provided them with security.

He declined to give further details about the visitors, but said he was not aware that they were agents.

Officials at the US Embassy were not immediately available for comment.