NEW YORK, Sept 25: Pakistani military officers battling Al Qaeda militants along the border with Afghanistan believe that Osama bin Laden is hiding with a small cadre in Afghanistan and is no longer an effective leader for the terrorist group, CBS television reported on Sunday. According to the TV programme, the counter-terrorism head of Pakistan’s intelligence service, a brigadier who identified himself as Ali, told a CBS correspondent that intelligence forces had reduced Osama’s power by capturing 594 Al Qaeda members and crippling the group’s communications network.

“We have been able to effectively break the communications network from top to bottom. We do not allow these people to communicate with each other,” said Brig Ali. “I think now [Osama] is being protected or assisted by a very short number, which keeps his profile very low.”

Brig Ali believes that Osama is still at some place along the border, probably in Afghanistan.

“The information gleaned from captured Al Qaeda members and given to coalition officials has helped prevent planned terror attacks against financial buildings in the US, and planes and buildings at London’s Heathrow airport.” It also helped capture Al Qaeda operatives in Great Britain, according to CBS.

Finding Osama doesn’t matter at this point, according to Lt-Gen Safdar Hussain, the in charge of anti-terrorism operations along the Afghanistan border. “If [Osama] is hiding in a hole, neither the electronic nor the human intelligence can find him,” he told CBS.

The CBS correspondent also spoke to President Gen Pervez Musharraf. “These troops are not certainly on the trail of one man, and that’s all they are doing,” noted the president. “We are fighting terrorism wherever it is. If Osama happens to be there incidentally, he will be killed or captured,” he said.

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