Afghan Taliban dismiss bin Laden threat reports
By Sayed Salahuddin
Sunday June 24, 7:19 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban movement on Sunday dismissed media reports that exiled Saudi Arabian dissident Osama bin Laden was planning attacks on U.S. and Israeli interests, saying his activities were "under control".
A statement by a Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman came a day after the Arabic satellite television channel MBC reported that followers of bin Laden, who is based in Afghanistan, were planning a major attack on U.S. and Israeli interests in the next two weeks.
"All of Osama's activities are under control in Afghanistan and he has no possibility to intensify his activities against any other country," Taliban spokesman Mohammad Osman Sheryar told reporters at a news briefing.
"The reports by the mass media which broadcast increase of Osama's activities are propaganda and far from reality."
The MBC station, monitored by the BBC, broadcast a report from a correspondent in the Pakistani town of Quetta who said he had met bin Laden two days ago in Afghanistan.
"There is a major state of mobilisation among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race for who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?" the correspondent said.
He said he had met bin Laden at an unspecified site some three hours' drive from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar and also talked with some of his followers.
"All of them affirm that the next two weeks will witness a big surprise. A severe blow is expected against U.S. and Israeli interests worldwide," the reporter said.
TV FOOTAGE "FAKED"
Sheryar rejected the report. "The TV footage was a faked one. Now Osama has no possibility to give interviews," he said.
The Taliban is under U.N. sanctions, including an arms embargo, for refusing to hand over bin Laden for a U.S. trial on terrorism charges.
Sheryar said bin Laden was a "guest" and would never be allowed to use Afghan soil against any country.
Asked about the possibility of a U.S. attack against Taliban-held areas similar to 1998 missile strikes against suspected bin Laden bases in eastern Afghanistan, Sheryar said: "Afghanistan has no worry and never had one as God helps Afghanistan.
"Osama's activities are under control...therefore I don't think America will repeat its previous mistake".
U.S. officials said on Friday forces in the Gulf had been put on alert based on a non-specific but credible threat linked to bin Laden.
U.S. embassies in the Gulf were open for business as usual on Sunday, although witnesses said security was tight after Washington's warning of an increased threat of "terrorist" action by Islamic militant groups.
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