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New York Daily News

Hunt Bin Laden in major cities - envoy

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is likely hiding in one of Pakistan's crowded cities, Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. said in a recent interview.

Ambassador Said Jawad insisted "it is much easier" for Bin Laden to operate from a city than a cave on the rugged border between the two nations, where many think he is hiding.

"We should also look to where you find Osama's closest friends. Where were they arrested?" Jawad told the Daily News. "A lot of them were arrested in major urban centers, not in tribal areas or in the mountains."

Since 9/11, Al Qaeda leaders such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Faraj Al-Libbi were all nabbed in cities such as Rawalpindi and Karachi.

"I think we should enlarge the scope of the search to major metropolitan centers," Jawad said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said that Bin Laden may be in Afghanistan. Counterterrorism sources say he has traveled over the mountainous border several times since 9/11.

But Jawad said, "It's certainly very difficult for a 6-foot-tall Arab, who needs dialysis almost every other day for his kidney, to hide in a cave in Afghanistan."

The U.S. has hunted for Bin Laden for five years but has limited ability to search inside Pakistan, where his capture could lead to the toppling of Musharraf's fragile regime.

After 9/11, President Bush said he wanted the Al Qaeda leader caught "dead or alive." The CIA's Bin Laden unit, Alec Station, was recently disbanded, but Bush denied that the U.S. has let up on the manhunt.

--James Gordon Meek

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