- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 6 (UPI) — Accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden met with his now seized chief operational lieutenant in Pakistan last month, The New York Times reported.

Details of the meeting were discovered in material seized Saturday during the arrest by Pakistani and U.S. officials of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington. The Times, in its report datelined Islamabad, said Mohammed met with bin Laden in February in the city of Rawalpindi.

"There is now no doubt that he (bin Laden) is alive and well," a senior Pakistani government official told The Times. "We have documents that show he is alive and in this region."

The newspaper quoted officials in Washington as saying a meeting between the two men would suggest that bin Laden was still in charge of his al Qaida network and was planning another attack on U.S. or allied interests.

Bin Laden's whereabouts have been unknown since he is said to have escaped the U.S. bombing campaign of the Tora Bora cave complex in Afghanistan in late 2001. There is no firm evidence to suggest he is alive, though U.S. officials attributed two recent audio tapes to him.

The Times said evidence of the meeting between the two men came from documents, CD-ROM's and a computer discovered when Mohammed was arrested in Islamabad.

The Times quoted another Pakistani official as saying Mohammed had told his captors of his meeting with bin Laden, but al Qaida's alleged chief operational lieutenant refused to provide more details.

Earlier this week, Pakistan said Mohammed was in U.S. custody at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

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