SPECULATION about the death of Osama bin Laden continued to swirl across
the globe last night, but in the three capitals most likely to be the first to
know if and when he dies - Riyadh, Islamabad and Washington - there were
blanket denials of any knowledge of French reports that the al-Qaeda leader
had succumbed to typhoid last month.
Significantly, in view of claims that it was Saudi intelligence that was said to be the original source for the report, an official statement issued by the Government in Riyadh said: "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."
Internet monitors who track terrorist chatter also said they had come across nothing to support the reports. The Washington-based IntelCentre, which monitors terrorism communications, was quoted as saying it was not aware of any similar reports on the internet.
Officials in Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be based in the remote North Waziristan district, insisted they knew nothing that would confirm the reports of his death on August 23. Pakistan's Interior Minister, Aftab Sherpao, said: "No, we do not have any such information." The French regional daily L'Est Republicain reported on Saturday that Saudi intelligence first got reports of bin Laden's death on September 4 and that last Thursday this was passed to the French DGSE foreign intelligence service, which relayed it to President Jacques Chirac's office. Australian officials were treating the claim cautiously, with Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile warning against premature celebrations.
Bugger! Guess I have to cancel the Ding Dong the Witch is Dead Party I was planning!