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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 21:31 GMT
Media hunt for Bin Laden
Nobody - not even the Taleban - seems to know the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, but regional media are full of reports on his movements.

The US fears that as they close in on Bin Laden, he could try to flee Afghanistan to Chechnya, Kashmir or Pakistan.


Osama Bin Laden has most likely abandoned Afghanistan... to save his life

Iranian radio
Indeed, Iranian radio put him in Pakistan - a day after it said he was in southern Afghanistan.

Russian state television reported that his bodyguards had been seen in the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, while a Pakistani paper quoted sources as saying the world's most wanted man was heading for Chechnya.

The Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran from the eastern city of Mashhad reported that Bin Laden had left Afghanistan via the porous border with Pakistan.

The station said that he was probably in the tribal areas across the border, where the Pakistani Government has little real authority.


His bodyguards have been seen on the outskirts of Kunduz

Russia TV
"Osama Bin Laden has most likely abandoned Afghanistan for the free areas to save his life," the radio quoted a source as saying.

Pakistan denied the Iranian report, with foreign ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan telling Radio Pakistan that the border with Afghanistan was secure.

At about the same time, Russia TV speculated that the leader of al-Qaeda terror network was among the thousands of Taleban troops cut off in and around Kunduz.


Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar are in the Filkoh hills

Iranian radio
"Sources in the political leadership of the Northern Alliance report that his bodyguards have been seen on the outskirts of the town," their correspondent said from Afghanistan.

Only a day earlier, Iranian radio had said that Bin Laden was holed up in the mountains in the south of the country.

"We received information that Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar are in the Filkoh hills between Urozgan, Helmand and Kandahar provinces," the radio said.


Both of them are in Afghanistan and no harm has come to them

Taleban spokesman
"They are still there," the correspondent added.

In their most recent comments on the matter, the Taleban said that the pair were alive, well and in Afghanistan.

"Both of them are in Afghanistan and no harm has come to them," a spokesman told the Afghan Islamic Press.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani paper Khabrain reported that Bin Laden had left Kandahar to go to Chechnya.


He is moving towards Uzbekistan, from where his next destination would be Chechnya

Pakistan's Khabrain daily
"According to the sources, Osama Bin Laden has left Kandahar and presently he is moving towards Uzbekistan, from where his next destination would be Chechnya," the paper said.

But the Times of India saw a ray of light in the hunt.

"Winter, contrary to popular notion, is going to be beneficial to the US Air Force as it will be easy to trace the whereabouts of those holed up using thermal sensors," it said.

It suggested, however, that catching Bin Laden would be a different matter.


Either he will kill himself or the attacking forces will kill him when they find him

The Times of India
"He is not likely to be taken," the English-language daily wrote. "Either he will kill himself or the attacking forces will kill him when they find him."

"Osama, on trial, can turn out to be a messy affair," it warned.

It may well not come to that.

"Osama has decided that it is better to die than be caught by the Americans," Taleban spokesman Mullah Abdullah told the Afghan Islamic Press news agency.

"He gives death the priority."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

16 Nov 01 | South Asia
US 'kills Bin Laden deputy'
15 Nov 01 | South Asia
The search for Bin Laden
14 Nov 01 | South Asia
Where is Bin Laden?
10 Nov 01 | Media reports
City's capture is victory in media war
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