Bin Laden, deputy hiding in Pakistan, says NATO official

"Nobody in Al Qaeda is living in a cave," an unnamed senior NATO official was quoted as saying by CNN.

Rather, Al Qaeda's top leadership is believed to be living in relative comfort, protected by locals and some members of the Pakistani intelligence services, the official said.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied protecting members of the Al Qaeda leadership.

The official said the general region where bin Laden is likely to have moved around in recent years ranges from the mountainous Chitral area in the far northwest near the Chinese border, to the Kurram Valley which neighbours Afghanistan's Tora Bora, one of the Taliban strongholds during the US invasion in 2001.

Tora Bora is also the region from which bin Laden is believed to have escaped during a US bombing raid in late 2001. US officials have long said there have been no confirmed sightings of bin Laden or Zawahiri for several years.

The area that the official described covers hundreds of square miles of some of the most rugged terrain in Pakistan inhabited by fiercely independent tribes, CNN said.

The official also confirmed the US assessment that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has moved between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan over the last several months.

CNN said the official would not discuss how the coalition has come to know any of this information, but he has access to some of the most sensitive information in the NATO alliance.

The NATO official, who has day-to-day senior responsibilities for the war, offered a potentially grimmer view than what has been publicly offered by others, CNN said.
"Every year the insurgency can generate more and more manpower," despite military attacks, he was quoted as saying.

The official also cautioned that hard core Taliban groups such as the Quetta Shura run by Mullah Omar, the Haqqanis, the HiG (Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin) and the Pakistani Taliban still could potentially muster as many as 30,000 fighters.

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