Last Updated: Saturday, 23 September
2006, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Bin Laden is
blamed for attacks across the world
President Jacques Chirac has ordered an inquiry into the leak of a
French secret service memo claiming that Osama Bin Laden had died.
Mr Chirac told reporters he was surprised the memo had been leaked,
and refused to comment on the claim itself.
A French newspaper quoted a document as saying the Saudi secret
services were convinced the al-Qaeda leader had died of typhoid in
Pakistan in late August.
Officials in Pakistan and the US said they could not confirm the
Saudi-born Bin Laden was based in Afghanistan until the Taleban
government there was overthrown by US-backed forces in 2001 after
the 9/11 attacks.
Since then, US and Pakistani officials have regularly said they
believe he is hiding in the lawless border area between Afghanistan
His last videotaped message was released in late 2004, but several
audio tapes have been released this year - the last at the end of
June, in which Bin Laden praised Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of
al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed in an American air strike.
Internal organs paralyzed
In its report, French regional daily
L'Est Republicain said it had
obtained a copy of a DGSE foreign intelligence service report dated
"According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now
convinced that Osama Bin Laden is dead," it read.
"The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of
al-Qaeda fell victim, while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006,
to a very serious case of typhoid that led to a partial paralysis of
his internal organs."
Mr. Chirac said:
"I am surprised that a confidential memo from the
secret services has been published, therefore I've ordered the defence minister to start an inquiry.
"As far as the information itself is concerned, it's not confirmed
in any way. Therefore I have no comment at all."
The Washington-based IntelCenter, which monitors terrorism
communications, said it was not aware of any similar reports on the
"We've seen nothing from any
al-Qaeda messaging or other indicators that would point to the
death of Osama Bin Laden," director Ben Venzke told the
Associated Press news agency.
Attending Saudi national day
ceremonies in Washington,
the CIA director weighs in on the hot question
of the weekend
by Timothy Burger/Washington
and Scott MacLeod/Cairo
with reporting by Tala Skari/Paris
Posted Saturday, Sep. 23, 2006
General Michael Hayden, Director of the CIA, walked
into the celebration of Saudi Arabia's national day in Washington
D.C. and was immediately posed with the question of the day.
"Is it true?" Hayden was asked by a Time
reporter. "Nope," Hayden said, immediately adding to the
accumulating statements on the paucity of evidence that Osama bin
Laden was dead. About an hour before, the Saudi government
itself declared that it,
"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
Pakistani intelligence sources, who
monitor the mountainous regions where Bin Laden is believed to be
hiding out, had also dismissed the reports of the terror leader's
death. A well placed source in Washington said the idea of Bin
Laden's demise appears to have originated as a,
"hypothesis of some Saudi
intelligence analysts with no hard evidence to back it up. No
one at a high level is satisfied it's true."
At his country's national day
celebration in Washington, Saudi Ambassador Prince Turki
"My understanding is that [Bin
Laden] is alive and well and kicking. But I may be wrong."
Earlier on Saturday, the French
newspaper L'Est Republicain cited a report by the French
intelligence service, Direction Generale des Services Exteriors
(DGSE), saying that Saudi intelligence officials "seem to
have become convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead." The report
quoted by the newspaper said the Saudis believe bin Laden,
"might have succumbed to a very
serious case of typhoid fever resulting in partial paralysis of
his lower limbs while in Pakistan on August 23, 2006."
Echoing that report, a Saudi source,
speaking on condition of anonymity, told TIME that Saudi
officials have received multiple reports over the last several weeks
that Bin Laden has been suffering from a water-borne illness.
"This is not a rumor," said the
"He is very ill. He got a
water-related sickness and it could be terminal... But we don't
have any concrete information to say that he is dead."
The French government has reportedly
begun an investigation into the leak of the DGSE report to
Evidence bin Laden Has Died
French newspaper published
details of alleged intelligence memo
Updated: 9:15 a.m. ET Sept 24,
MSNBC News Services
PARIS - President Jacques Chirac and Saudi officials said Saturday
that information contained in a leaked intelligence document raising
the possibility that Osama bin Laden may have died of typhoid in
Pakistan last month is “in no way whatsoever confirmed.”
Chirac said he was “a bit surprised” at the leak and has asked
Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to probe how a document from a
French foreign intelligence service was published in the French
The regional newspaper l’Est Republicain on Saturday printed what it
described as a copy of a confidential document from the DGSE
intelligence service citing an uncorroborated report from Saudi
secret services that the leader of the al-Qaida terror network had
The DGSE transmitted the document, dated Sept. 21 or Thursday, to
Chirac and other top French officials, the newspaper said.
“This information is in no way
whatsoever confirmed,” Chirac said Saturday when asked about the
document. “I have no comment.”
The Saudi Embassy in Washington issued a
“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.”
In Washington, CIA duty officer
Paul Gimigliano said he could not confirm the DGSE report.
IntelCenter, which monitors terrorism
communications, said it was not aware of any similar reports on the
“We’ve seen nothing from any al-Qaida
messaging or other indicators that would point to the death of
Osama bin Laden,” IntelCenter director Ben N. Venzke told The
Last date known is June 29
Al-Qaida would likely release
information of his death fairly quickly if it were true, said Venzke,
whose organization also provides counterterrorism intelligence
services for the American government.
“They would want to release that to
sort of control the way that it unfolds. If they wait too long,
they could lose the initiative on it,” he said.
The last time the IntelCenter says it
could be sure bin Laden was alive was June 29, when al-Qaida
released an audiotape in which the terror leader eulogized the death
of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a
U.S. airstrike in Iraq earlier that month.
Chirac spoke at a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor
Angela Merkel in Compiegne, France,
where the leaders were holding a summit.
Putin suggested that leaks can be ways to manipulate. “When there
are leaks ... one can say that (they) were done especially.”
Earlier the French defense ministry said it was opening an
investigation into the leak.
“The information diffused this
morning by the l’Est Republicain newspaper concerning the
possible death of Osama bin Laden cannot be confirmed,” a
Defense Ministry statement said.
How ‘reliable’ a source?
The DGSE, or Direction Generale des Services Exterieurs, indicated that its information
came from a single source.
“According to a reliable source,
Saudi security services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden
is dead,” said the intelligence report.
There have been periodic reports of bin
Laden’s illness or death in recent years but none has been proven
According to this report, Saudi security services were pursuing
further details, notably the place of his burial.
“The chief of al-Qaida was a victim of a severe typhoid crisis while
in Pakistan on August 23, 2006,” the document says. His geographic
isolation meant that medical assistance was impossible, the French
report said, adding that his lower limbs were allegedly paralyzed.
The report further said Saudi security services had their first
information on bin Laden’s alleged death on Sept. 4.
In Pakistan, a senior official of that country’s top spy agency, the
ISI or Directorate of Inter-Service Intelligence, said he had no
information to confirm bin Laden’s whereabouts or that he might be
dead. The official said he believed the report could be fabricated.
The official was not authorized to speak publicly on the topic and
spoke on condition of anonymity.
U.S. Embassy officials in Pakistan and Afghanistan also said they
could not confirm the French report.
Gen. Henri Bentegeat, the French army chief of staff, said in a
radio debate last Sunday that bin Laden’s fate remained a mystery.
“Today, bin Laden is certainly not
in Afghanistan,” Bentegeat said. “No one is completely certain
that he is even alive.”
The Associated Press and
Reuters contributed to this report.
Report claims bin
Laden is dead
Sept. 23: French and U.S. officials were caught off guard Saturday
by a leaked report
claiming that Osama
bin Laden was seriously ill and may have already died.
NBC’s Lisa Daniels