United Nations, Sept. 13 (Reuters): Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf joked yesterday Afghanistan should open its mountainous Tora Bora region to tourists so they could search its caves and perhaps determine once and for all whether Osama bin Laden was dead or alive.
“Every cave has been bombed. But so many of these caves have not been searched,” he told a news conference at UN headquarters. “In a lighter vein, I was suggesting maybe we open it to tourists, so they can start searching those caves at Tora Bora.”
Musharraf said he still believed the Saudi-born militant blamed by Washington for masterminding the September 11 attacks on the US was dead and was certainly not in Pakistan. He still thought bin Laden had been killed during the prolonged bombing of Tora Bora’s caves that capped last year’s US-led attack on Afghanistan that toppled its Taliban leaders.
“My guess is probably, more likely, he is dead. He may be alive. More likely he is dead,” he said.
Bin Laden’s whereabouts remain a mystery, and US officials have put out conflicting word in recent weeks about his fate. Some say he was probably killed in Tora Bora while others say he may have fled Afghanistan, perhaps to neighbouring Pakistan.
Afghan foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah has said he believed bin Laden remained alive but was no longer in Afghanistan.
Large numbers of Islamic militants from bin Laden’s al Qaida network and their Taliban allies are thought to have crossed into Pakistan after US forces began pursuing them in Afghanistan.
But Musharraf said the tall bearded man who may have been dependent on a kidney dialysis unit likely would travel with a huge entourage and would be easy to spot if he were in Pakistan.