Friday, June 12, 2009

Osama bin Laden in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, June 11: CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Thursday that Pakistan’s military offensive against the militants would help the United States catch Osama bin Laden who was still hiding in that country.

Mr Panetta told reporters after a speech on Capitol Hill that finding Bin Laden remained one of CIA’s top priorities.

The combination of increased CIA activity and the Pakistani military offensive will give the United States a better chance of nabbing him, he added. Mr Panetta also indicated the possibility of conducting joint operations with Pakistani forces to catch Bin Laden and other senior Al Qaeda leaders.

In his speech, the CIA chief said his agency had increased the number of officers and agents in Pakistan and they were providing valuable information about the Al Qaeda network, particularly in Fata. The agents, he said, had provided useful information about possible terrorist targets in Fata. Asked whether he was sure that Bin Laden was in Pakistan, Mr Panetta said: “The last information we had, that’s still the case.”

US intelligence officials say that although the Al Qaeda reclusive leader has eluded a US manhunt since the September 11, 2001, he was not only alive but maintained some links with his top lieutenants as well. “Finding Bin Laden is one of our major priorities,” Mr Panetta said. “One of our hopes is that the Pakistanis move in militarily, combined with our operations, we may be able to have a better chance” to find the Al Qaeda leader, he said.

Mr Panetta said Al Qaeda “remains the most serious security threat” to the United States and its leaders and continued to plot against America.

Besides Pakistan, he said, his agency was also focussing on countries where Al Qaeda might find safe haven, like Somalia and Yemen.

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