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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Osama Bin Laden 'alive and well'
Osama Bin Laden
The US has offered $25m for Osama bin Laden's capture
A top Taleban commander has said in a television interview that Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan's former Taleban leader Mullah Omar are alive and well.

"I am in contact with Mullah Omar and take directions from him," Mullah Akhtar Usmani told Pakistan's privately-run Geo television.

There is no way of independently verifying Mullah Usmani's claims.

The BBC's Rahimullah Yusufzai says that Mullah Usmani was a senior commander in the Taleban before its fall in 2001.

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Our correspondent says he is since considered to be the operational head of the Taleban resistance.

The United States has offered bounties of $25m and $10m for the capture of Saudi-born Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar in connection with the 11 September attacks.

Mullah Usmani [Photo: Geo TV]
All I can tell you is that Osama Bin Laden is alive and well
Mullah Usmani

The comments come a day after Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, said in Australia that he believed Osama Bin Laden was alive based on the information Pakistan had received from al-Qaeda members arrested by its security forces.

"Taleban are all over Afghanistan," Mullah Usmani said in his interview.

"They may be more in some provinces and less in the other, but their support is growing," he said, partly covering his face with a black scarf.

But he was not willing to say anything about their location.

"All I can tell you is that Osama Bin Laden is alive and well," he said.

He also said Mullah Omar was still in command of the Taleban forces.

"He is still our commander and issuing directions."

Manhunt

Osama Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Pakistan's unruly tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Pakistani observers are surprised at Geo TV's ability to interview a top Taleban commander at a time when members of the militia are targets of a massive manhunt by the US-led coalition as well as Pakistani forces.

The Taleban has been on the run ever since they were ousted three and a half years ago.

But there has been an increase in attacks in Afghanistan in recent months, attributed to militants owing allegiance to the Taleban and al-Qaeda, raising fears they may be regrouping.


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