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The U.S. now says Osama Bin Laden is alive, living in Pakistan and was not in Tora Bora during the U.S. attack in December, reports Geostrategy, the global intelligence news agency.
Israeli intelligence officials are looking into the new claim after recently concluding bin Laden was dead and that a successor had been chosen.
The CIA quietly changed its assessment earlier this month following the release of a handwritten letter addressed to supporters of the al-Qaida leader. The CIA analyzed the letter and determined the handwriting and words were those of bin Laden.
The letter reversed a previous theory that bin Laden had been trapped during fierce fighting in Tora Bora and was probably dead. It’s now believed bin Laden was south of Tora Bora when the U.S. bombed the caves housing al-Qaida.
The CIA interviewed an Afghan national who claims to have spoken to bin Laden as recently as three months ago. There have also been reports of bin Laden sightings in Pakistan.
Bin Laden ultimately may have taken refuge in Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the intelligence newsletter DEBKA. The al-Qaida leader is believed to have arrived there just before the attack on the French oil tanker Limburg, the shootings of U.S. Marines in Kuwait and the Bali bombing.
Sources indicate bin Laden has been seen twice, traveling on horseback in remote regions with his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri, family members and his bodyguard.
He’s reportedly been seen riding through the barren lands of the Al Murrah tribe, southwest of the Al Ghawar oil fields. The Al Murrah are members of the extremist Muslim Wahhabi sect and are among bin Laden’s most fervent followers.
Bin Laden has also been spotted in a region near Yemen, according to DEBKA. This location puts him within reach of his Yemeni supporters and in a position to control and deploy the hundreds of al-Qaida fighters who escaped Afghanistan and set up camp in the Asir province.
If bin Laden is in Saudi Arabia, it may explain the frequent messages received by the Arabic satellite television station, Al-Jazeera. Those messages were quickly followed by fresh terror attacks.
Despite the messages, Western intelligence is stumped as to why bin Laden himself hasn’t provided the U.S. with proof he’s still alive.
Some believe he’s only interested in getting the message across to a core group of followers and informing the enemy doesn’t figure into his plans, according to Geostrategy.
Another theory is that bin Laden is waiting for a super-terrorist attack against the U.S. that will equal or top Sept. 11.
A third possibility is that he’s changed his modus operandi and has decided to remain in the shadows to keep everyone guessing. That may explain why bin Laden doesn’t speak in videos recently released by al-Qaida.
U.S. intelligence officials have not been able to trace the last video from bin Laden, but believe it was released in December or early 2002.
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