Osama not in Pakistan, say Taliban

Published December 18, 2007

TANK, Dec 17: Local Taliban militants on Monday denied that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden might be hiding inside or near the tribal areas of the country.

A spokesman for the recently-formed United Taliban Movement of Pakistan (UTMP) in a statement accused President Pervez Musharraf of making false claims to please the ‘Americans’ in order to make money.

President Musharraf had claimed in an interview to The Washington Post that Bin Laden might be hiding in the area that borders Bajaur tribal agency and Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

“No one except Osama knows where he is. Musharraf is making such statements to make more money,” the spokesman, Maulavi Omar, said.

He alleged that such statements were tantamount to inviting US forces to invade the country.

He added that the tribal militants would welcome and protect the Al Qaeda leader if he ever came to their area.

He denied that the Afghan Taliban had formed the UTMP, but acknowledged that they shared the same ideals and goals.

“Of course, our mission is the same and we believe that Mullah Omar is our caliph but, at the same time, we have our own separate struggle which is limited to Pakistan.”

He reiterated his threat to the government that if military operations in tribal areas and Swat were not halted within 10 days, militants would launch attacks on security forces throughout the country.“We have given a 10-day deadline to the government of Pakistan to withdraw troops from tribal areas and Swat.”

He demanded release of all Taliban prisoners, including the Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz.

“If the demands are not met there were will be large-scale attacks on security forces throughout the country,” he warned.

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