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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 10:17 GMT
US seeks Bin Laden DNA
Bin Laden (centre) with al-Qaeda aides
Osama Bin Laden's family has disowned him
The Pentagon has asked the relatives of Osama Bin Laden to provide DNA samples to determine if human remains found in Afghanistan are those of the terror group leader.

The remains are from the site of an American air strike earlier this month, which the Pentagon believes killed three al-Qaeda leaders.

One of the men was said to be unusually tall and was being treated with great deference. Bin Laden is thought to be about 1.93 metres (6ft 4in) tall.

Predator drone
Unmanned spy planes carried out the strike
US officials do not believe the dead man was Bin Laden, but they want to make sure by comparing the DNA.

So far, the Bin Laden family have declined to provide DNA samples.

The three men were killed in mountains in the east of the country close to the Pakistani border by a Hellfire missile fired from a pilotless aircraft.

Local villagers maintain that the victims were innocent Afghans who were scavenging for scrap metal in the area, near Zhawar Kili, which had already been heavily bombed by US forces.

The US Government strongly denies the claim.

Many possible donors

The United States had not approached the Bin Laden family directly but was operating through intermediary channels, one US official told Reuters news agency.

There could be many possible donors. Bin Laden's father, now dead, had 54 children by several wives.

But the family, which runs a well-known construction conglomerate based in Saudi Arabia, has publicly disowned Bin Laden for many years.

The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington says the government there believes that Bin Laden is still alive, hiding out in a Pakistani-Afghan border region after escaping from the Tora Bora caves late last year.

See also:

11 Feb 02 | Americas
US probes Afghan missile strike
22 Nov 01 | Americas
Spy plane hunting Bin Laden
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's disappearing act
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
14 Oct 01 | UK
Bin Laden's son defiant
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