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Friday, July 9, 1999 Published at 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK

World: South Asia

'Osama' popular in Pakistan

Pakistan's mountainous North West Frontier borders Afghanistan

A growing number of parents in Pakistan's rugged North West Frontier Province are naming their newly-born sons after Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

According to a report in Pakistan's English-language newspaper, The News, a survey has established that the name 'Osama' is widely popular in the mountainous province bordering Afghanistan.

Some 500 baby boys were named Osama in Pakistan's Khost region, after the United States targeted suspected bin Laden hideouts in neighbouring Afghanistan with missile attacks last year.

Businesses named

The name is also popular among local businessmen. Urdu-language journalist Mohammed Jalil, who conducted the survey, says several businesses and public institutions bearing the Saudi dissident's name have been established in the region.

They include the Osama Poultry Farm, the Osama Bakery, Osama drug store, an Osama watchmaker, the Osama Public School and several Osama clothing stores.

"People say they are impressed by the courage shown by Osama bin Laden in challenging and defying the United States and speaking out for oppressed Muslims," Mr Jalil said.

Carrying the banner

He said parents named their son after bin Laden in the hope that they would "follow in the footsteps of Osama bin Laden and uphold the banner of Islam."

Last August, the US launched cruise missile attacks on targets in Afghanistan suspected of being connected to the Saudi dissident.

He was recently added to the FBI's "10 most wanted" list, with the offer of a $5m reward.

Afghanistan's Taleban have acknowledged that the militant Saudi millionaire is in the country, and that it is looking after his security.

Previously the movement said it was unaware of the whereabouts of Mr bin Laden, who the United States accuses of involvement in the bombings on its embassies in East Africa last year.

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