French newspaper suggests Osama bin Laden may be dead

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Image of Osama bin Laden, from the FBI's Most Wanted List

The French daily newspaper L'Est Republicain reported today that Al-Qaeda's Osama bin Laden may have died of Typhoid Fever in Pakistan on August 23, citing what it said was a leaked French secret service report dated September 21. The newspaper reported that unnamed Saudi secret services sources passed this information to the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE, the French external secret service).

"According to a source that is usually reliable, Saudi secret services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead," said the French intelligence report. The report states that Saudi Arabia first heard the information on September 4 and are searching for more details, more specifically Osama's burial place, before making an official announcement. Bin Laden is alleged to have succumbed to a serious bout of typhoid fever, which caused a partial paralysis of his lower limbs. Due to his remote hideout, the report claims, medical assistance was out of the question.

A spokesperson of the Pakistani home office said that he had no information about the possible death of Osama bin Laden. U.S. intelligence services and spokespeople at the White House also say they have no confirmation of the report.

French President Jacques Chirac reacted: "I was rather surprised to see that a confidential note from the DGSE was published and I have asked the minister of defense to start an investigation immediately and to reach whatever conclusions are necessary." He too stressed the information was not confirmed.

Meanwhile, a Saudi source told CNN and Time that bin Laden has a water-borne illness, but is still alive.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington D.C. has issued a statement saying: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no evidence to support recent media reports that Osama bin Laden is dead. Information that has been reported otherwise is purely speculative and cannot be independently verified."

It's not the first time bin Laden's death has been announced. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen pointed out that rumours of bin Laden's death circulate every few months.

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