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Ramananda Sengupta in Bombay
Osama bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the United States and the current target of America's might, may have fled Afghanistan four days ago.
"The bird has flown," remarked a highly placed source in Peshawar. "They [the ulema] officially asked him to leave today, but he had left four days ago."
This implies that the Taleban calling the Shoora, a grand Islamic council of all the ulema [clerics] of the country, for discussions on Laden's fate may have just been a ploy to give the Saudi fugitive time to make good his escape.
Given the massive exodus of refugees fleeing Afghanistan, it would not have been too difficult for Laden to escape to either Pakistan or Iran, though both nations have officially sealed their borders with Afghanistan.
Incidentally, it was four days ago that a team led by the Inter-Services Intelligence Director, Lieutenant General Mehmood Ahmed, had arrived from Pakistan to convey the American ultimatum to hand over Laden or face military action. The team returned a day later to Islamabad.
Dawn, a Pakistani daily, had earlier reported that Laden 'on Sunday took an oath of allegiance from 500 of his Arab supporters in Kabul before shifting to some other place'.
Quoting a source in Kabul, the report said Laden took the oath at Chahar-i-Ansari in Kabul. 'The fidayeen [suicide squad] were all Arabs who vowed to fight to the last man,' the source quoted an Arab as saying.
According to the source, Osama then said goodbye to his comrades-in-arms before disappearing with his bodyguards on horses.
They left behind their vehicles and rode away on horseback, the source told Dawn, speculating that he must have gone to some place which has no motorable roads.
The Attack on America: The Complete Coverage
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