December 29, 2001
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Osama in Bajaur, Mullah Omar in Gilgit: Report

Saudi renegade Osama bin Laden is reported to have escaped from Tora Bora in Afghanistan on November 19 and is hiding in Bajaur in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, according to information received from interrogation of Al Qaida functionaries by US intelligence agencies.

Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is also on the run, crossed over into Pakistan on December six and is stated to be in Gilgit area, informed sources quoting these reports said.

The Al Qaida functionaries, nabbed during the war, are also reported to have told their interrogators that bin Laden was being given shelter in Bajaur by the men of one Sufi Mohammed, chief of tribal extremist outfit Tariq-e-Nifaz Shariat Mohammadi.

Mohammed, who had fought alongside the Taliban in Kunduz area, was arrested on November 22 by Pakistan, when he tried to sneak in through mountain passes, the reports said.

The presence of bin Laden in FATA has made it difficult for the US to nab the terrorist mastermind as even Pakistani troops cannot enter this area because the violent tribal groups, who have historically never been subdued by people from outside.

Pakistani army trucks have been looted in these areas, which is thought to be almost out of bounds for the Pakistanis.

Even the erstwhile British rulers, who could not gain control over these areas, had decided to let it act as a buffer between Afghanistan and Pakistan while demarcating the border.

Afghanistan's interim defence minister Mohammad Fahim has also said that bin Laden has left the mountains of eastern Afghanistan and entered Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistani media has named at least 14 top Taliban officials, who have escaped into that country.

These include Maulvi Noor Mohammad Saquib, Taliban's influential chief justice who is known for his fatwa in favour of demolition of Bamiyan's Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Maulvi Abdul Kabir, Taliban's finance minister and governor of Nangarhar province, deputy culture and information minister Abdul Baqi Haqqani, deputy health minister Hafiz Asmatullah Asim, deputy planning minister Haji Mustak Hotak, water and power minister Maulvi Ahmed Jan and his deputy Mohommed Azam Ilmi.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for Pakistan's military-led government, General Rashid Qureshi, said again on Saturday that there was no reason to believe Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan.

"These rumours have been going about for the last few weeks", General Qureshi said on BBC radio.

But he added that 'even the United States doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is. They say he could be in Afghanistan, or elsewhere, in any other country'.

"Why do they concentrate on Pakistan? Pakistan has tried to arrest and has arrested all non-Afghans or even Afghans who cross the border," he said.

"If the Afghan government has some information as to his location, they must share it with us", the general added.

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