Interior minister says bin Laden not in Afghanistan

Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida leader, is no longer in Afghanistan, the country's top police official said Thursday, citing the large number of U.S. and NATO forces providing security and battling insurgents.

"He is not in Afghanistan," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told reporters.

"It isn't possible for him to be here because of all the international forces here. It is strongly suspected that he is in the tribal area," Jalali said, referring to a region of Pakistan along the Afghan border.

The statement came after a spokesman for Jalali's ministry told a Pakistani television network earlier this week that mistakes by U.S. forces had enabled bin Laden, blamed for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to avoid capture in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan later that year.

On Wednesday, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that the United States does not know where bin Laden is.

"We do not know where he is located," Col. James Yonts said.

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