A former military and intelligence source familiar with American efforts to hunt down al-Qaida fighters and operatives inside Afghanistan says the group’s founder, Osama bin Laden, is “likely dead” by now.

Bin Laden, who U.S. authorities believe was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks as well as a number of other terrorist assaults against American targets, is known to have heart and kidney problems. To treat his kidney problem, he requires daily dialysis.

The source indicated that prior to the U.S. military assault on al-Qaida, which began a year ago, bin Laden had two dialysis machines. Since then, however, one of them has been found in Khandahar.

The source said the machines, which were supplied by the Russian mafia “via a Singapore conduit,” require a lot of ancillary equipment to operate, such as tubes, generators and spare parts.

“He’s been on the run for a while, and it would be hard to imagine that he’s had the luxury to move the machine, stop for hours on end to use it and evade U.S. forces,” the source told WorldNetDaily. “On top of that, just the logistical requirements for the maintenance and operation of the machines would make it difficult to keep things running.

“How would bin Laden accomplish all this?” the source said. “Not likely.”

Before the war, bin Laden traveled in Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters, of which he had two. The aircraft are capable of carrying up to 4,000 kilograms – or about 8,800 pounds – of cargo. They could have easily transported his dialysis equipment.

But U.S. forces have destroyed one of the helos, “and the other is nowhere to be found,” the source said. “It’s probably packed away in some cave, but that’s unknown at this point.”

The source also said bin Laden is prone to attacks of angina, or chest pain, “which requires that he not exert himself.”

“When you put these two problems together, coupled with the U.S. pursuit and the wretched conditions found in the area of operations, it can be plausibly asserted that he’s dead,” said the source.

The last video message received by bin Laden, which was broadcast by Qatar-based Al Jazeera television, was in December 2001. In it, he looked haggard, tired and pale – a sign some analysts believed at the time to be a result of his need for dialysis. Also, analysts said the videotape appeared to have been filmed weeks beforehand.

Since then, bin Laden has not appeared on video, but statements allegedly made by him have been issued instead.

The latest of those was faxed to Al Jazeera and posted on an Islamic website. It praised recent attacks in Yemen and Kuwait, saying they were designed to coincide with the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan and to send a “clear and strong message” to the world that his al-Qaida organization is still active.

Analysts said the message appeared to have been written on a computer using an Arabic font that looks like handwriting.

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