Indian intelligence agencies warned more than a week ago that Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, was hiding in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh officials in Dhaka scoffed at the report.

But the presence of the No. 2 al-Qaida leader in Bangladesh would take on added new significance following the multiple bombings of movie theaters in the country today.

The Hindustan Times quoted an intelligence report Nov. 28 as saying
Bangladesh, India’s eastern neighbor, had become a haven for Osama
bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and that al-Zawahiri had been in Bangladesh since September.

”There are no al-Qaida elements in Bangladesh,” said Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister M. Morshed Khan in response. ”If there are any, they would be easily found as the country is too small for them to
hide.”

He also said the Muslim-majority country was ”opposed to any sort of terrorism.”

The Hindustan Times said New Delhi’s information was based on the interrogation of a man belonging to the Muslim militant group Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami, who was detained by police in the eastern Indian city of Calcutta last month, the newspaper said.

Harkat-ul-Jehad Islami is one of about a dozen rebel groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. Indian security officials say the group has training centers in Bangladesh – charges denied by Dhaka.

Last month, Time magazine said, quoting a Bangladeshi newspaper report, that al-Zawahiri had been hiding in Bangladesh for months after arriving in its southeastern port city of Chittagong. Dhaka also strongly denied the magazine report, calling it baseless.

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