- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 17, 2009

Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell said Friday that a son of Osama bin Laden, who had been in Iran for at least five years, has probably fled to Pakistan where U.S. forces have a better chance of capturing or killing him.

The retired admiral, who leaves office with the change in U.S. administrations, gave no details about how Saad bin Laden left Iran or exactly where he has gone in Pakistan, although the implication was that he is in the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where his father also is believed to be hiding.

“Saad bin Laden has left Iran,” Adm. McConnell told a small group of reporters at a farewell news conference. “He is probably in Pakistan. It’s better in my world if they are in places that we have access.”

U.S. forces have been pummeling the border region with pilotless craft and have killed at least eight senior al Qaeda leaders in the past six months, The Washington Times reported Friday, citing a senior Pakistani official.

Also Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it was freezing the assets of the younger bin Laden and three al Qaeda suspects still thought to be in Iran. The measures also bar Americans from carrying out any financial transactions with the four.

The other suspects are Mustafa Hamid, a senior al Qaeda operative of Egyptian-Pakistani origin who, according to the Treasury, has served as a liaison between al Qaeda and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards; Muhammad Raba al-Sayid al-Bahtiyti, an Egyptian; and Ali Saleh Husain, a senior al Qaeda member from Yemen, who helped al Qaeda fugitives flee Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Saad bin Laden was known to be in Iran in 2003 with perhaps a half-dozen other top al Qaeda members. Iranian officials said at the time that the group was under “hotel arrest” in Iran and offered to trade it for leaders of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a dissident Iranian militant group under U.S. protection in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. However, the Bush administration rejected a swap.

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