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German official: Bin Laden remains key figure

world Updated: Aug 04, 2008 16:17 IST

Osama bin Laden is no longer personally planning attacks, but remains significant as a "Che Guevara of al-Qaida" who helps hold together the terror network, Germany's intelligence chief said in an interview published on Monday.

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border _ a suspicion that Ernst Uhrlau, the head of the Federal Intelligence Service, underlined in an interview with the Bild daily.

"As a creative director and icon, he is still something like the Che Guevara of al-Qaida," Uhrlau was quoted as saying _ a reference to the Cuban revolutionary who became a popular symbol of rebellion worldwide.

"Bin Laden is certainly no longer personally planning any attacks," he added, according to the report. But "for the internal cohesion of the terror network, it is enough for very different groups to be able to invoke him."

Uhrlau said that, "as far as we know," bin Laden is still in the Afghan-Pakistani border region. "He apparently is with friendly tribes for whom a basic rule is irrevocable: one does not send a guest to his doom."

Asked whether al-Qaida might have had a role in last week's deadly bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, Uhrlau replied that that "cannot be ruled out," Bild reported.

Turkey's political leadership quickly blamed the blasts, which killed 17, on the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The group denied responsibility.

The attacks "fit the PKK only with difficulty," Uhrlau was quoted as saying. "The technique of the attack, as well as the place and time, point rather to an Islamist or domestic Turkish background."