CNN: Musharraf believes Osama bin Laden may be dead from kidney ailments

Friday, January 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistan's president said he believes Osama bin Laden is dead, the victim of kidney failure during the U.S. bombing campaign against Afghanistan, CNN said Friday.

``I think now, frankly, he is dead for the reason that he is a patient, a kidney patient,'' President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview, posted on CNN's Web site. ``We know that he donated two dialysis machines into Afghanistan. One was specifically for his own personal use.''

In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday that U.S. officials do not know whether bin Laden has died, but added, ``I don't think the president would view that as an unwelcome event.''

However, U.S. intelligence has some evidence that bin Laden survived the destruction of many of al-Qaida's camps and caves, officials said, declining to elaborate. The United States hopes prisoner interrogations and other newfound intelligence sources will warm up the trail to bin Laden.

Bin Laden has long been rumored to be suffering from several illnesses, including kidney and heart trouble. None of the ailments have been confirmed.

The 44-year-old terror suspect last appeared in a videotape broadcast Dec. 26, during which he praised the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States. Bin Laden looked pale and gaunt on the tape.

``I don't know if he has been getting all that treatment in Afghanistan now,'' Musharraf said of bin Laden. ``And the photographs that have been shown of him on television show him extremely weak.''

Musharraf did not indicate whether he had intelligence reports to back up his suspicions. And if bin Laden is alive, Musharraf said be believes he is in Afghanistan.

Last month, Musharraf told Chinese television there was a ``great possibility'' that bin Laden was dead. He suggested that bin Laden could have been killed in the U.S. bombing of the Tora Bora region of in eastern Afghanistan.

A search of the area by U.S. special forces turned up no trace of bin Laden.

President Bush launched airstrikes against Afghanistan on Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to surrender bin Laden. Despite the collapse of the Taliban last month, the U.S.-led coalition has been unable to find bin Laden.