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Bin Laden 'no longer in control of Al Qaeda'

ISLAMABAD: The US ambassador to Pakistan yesterday said he did not believe Osama bin Laden was still in operational control of Al Qaeda and the militant network was in "serious trouble".

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Ryan Crocker contradicted comments in a video interview posted on an Islamist website last week in which Al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman Al Zawahri, said Bin Laden was still leading the group's war on the West.

"I think that Osama bin Laden is no longer the operational head of Al Qaeda, because he is hiding deep inside the mountains and he doesn't have contact with the Al Qaeda people," Crocker said.

Referring to Al Zawahri, he added: "I don't know if Zawahri is heading Al Qaeda or not; what I do know is that Al Qaeda is in serious trouble these days."

US officials have long said they believe Bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11 attacks, has been hiding along the rugged Pakistan-Afghanistan border since US forces failed to capture him after invading Afghanistan late in 2001.

Asked about Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's announcement that a senior Al Qaeda figure, Abu Hamza Rabia, was killed in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan this month, Crocker echoed comments by other US officials. He said: "I don't know what happened, but if President Musharraf is saying he is dead, we must trust him."



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