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US, Pak reject Osama capture claim

Islamabad, March 12 (Reuters): The Pakistani government denied a claim by a local politician today that al Qaida chief Osama bin Laden had been captured, while the US government also disavowed the report.

Washington said it had no information to substantiate the claim by an official of a small Pakistani party and Pakistan’s interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat called the report unfounded and baseless.

In London, the dollar rose briefly against the euro and the Swiss franc, and equity futures in the US were rattled by the report, originally sourced to an Iranian radio station and picked up by the BBC monitoring service. The rumours also sent US treasuries lower in New York in early trade but they later recovered. Other senior Pakistan officials also denied the report, as did officials in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the US administration said: “We have no information to substantiate that claim,” a position two other US officials echoed. “There is nothing to substantiate this rumour,” said one. Pakistani politician Agha Murtaza Pooya, deputy head of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, said he had told the Pashtun language service of Iranian Radio that bin Laden was in custody but he did not know where he was being held. “I just said he’s in custody. I didn’t say where he was captured or what. I said he’s in custody, and in custody of those that are chasing him.”

Pooya said he heard of bin Laden’s arrest from credible sources “who, I have reasons to believe, have never given me wrong information”. Pooya said he believed news of the arrest was being held back to coincide with the start of military action against Iraq. “All I know is that one of the things under consideration is when the announcement should come — it’s supposed to be timed with the apprehended attack between March 17 and 18,” he added. The report of bin Laden’s arrest follows the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a senior al Qaida leader who masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks.

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