Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 1 News List

French newspaper quotes intelligence service's claim that bin Laden is dead

AFP , PARIS

A French newspaper yesterday published what it said was a report by the country's intelligence services that said Saudi Arabia believes Osama bin Laden died of typhoid in Pakistan this month.

France's defense ministry issued a statement saying the newspaper report "cannot be confirmed" and that Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie had ordered an investigation "to determine the source of this leak, which is a crime punishable by law."

France's foreign intelligence service, the DGSE, also refused to confirm the report, and no immediate official reaction was forthcoming from Saudi officials.

But European and Pakistani officials tracking bin Laden's whereabouts said on condition of anonymity that the report could not be seen as reliable.

Often rumored to be dead in the past -- only to appear later in audio or video recordings -- the leader of the al-Qaeda terror network was believed to have taken refuge on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Previous reported rumors have said that he suffered from a kidney disorder and was in poor health.

The French regional newspaper l'Est Republicain published what it said was a DGSE report dated last Thursday.

"According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi security services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," the DGSE report quoted by the newspaper said.

It said that "information gathered by the Saudis" indicates that bin Laden "might have succumbed to a very serious case of typhoid fever resulting in partial paralysis of his lower limbs while in Pakistan on Aug. 23.

"His geographic isolation provoked by constant fleeing is believed to have made medical assistance impossible [and] on September 4, 2006, the Saudi security services received preliminary information of his death," the paper said.

L'Est Republicain said the Saudis were "waiting to obtain further details and notably the exact place of burial before officially announcing the news."

Bin Laden has been on the run since October 2001.

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