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Afghan: Bin Laden Is in Afghanistan

July 10, 1999

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ In a rare admission, a senior official in the Taliban Islamic militia said Saturday that suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden is in Afghanistan but his exact whereabouts are unknown even by most Taliban leaders.

Earlier this year, the Taliban said bin Laden, charged in the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, disappeared from his base near the southern city of Kandahar, generating rumors that he left Afghanistan.

But Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, a senior Taliban spokesman, told The Associated Press by telephone Saturday that ``bin Laden is very much here and so is his family, but their whereabouts can’t be disclosed.″

Muttawakil said that ``even high ranking and senior most Taliban officials″ don’t know where bin Laden is.

The Taliban spokesman said bin Laden, a dissident Saudi billionaire, is ``under the supervision of Taliban’s special security committee.″

The religious army rules roughly 90 percent of Afghanistan and the opposition, comprised of ethnic and religious minorities, controls the remaining 10 percent. The two sides are fighting on several fronts in northern Afghanistan.

Last week, the United States imposed financial and commercial sanctions on Afghanistan to punish the country for harboring bin Laden.

The sanctions followed an announcement last month that bin Laden had been added to the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List and that a $5 million reward would be paid for information leading to his arrest.

Taliban officials say they fear U.S. missile attacks, similar to those which targeted bin Laden’s camp near the border with Pakistan last year. The attacks were in response to the embassy bombings in August.

``But we are not afraid and will not abandon our friend,″ said Ashabuddin Dilawar, deputy governor of the capital, Kabul.

Muttawakil said the Taliban will not hand bin Laden over to the Americans because they don’t have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Last year, the Taliban Supreme Court conducted an inquiry against bin Laden and cleared him of all the charges because the United States did not give proof of his involvement in the African bombings, he said.

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