Pakistan claims Osama Bin Laden's cell harmless

Pakistani officials claim Osama bin Laden's only contact with his supporters is now limited to handwritten messages delivered by trusted couriers.

Pakistan's military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, says it takes the terrorist leader more than two months to exchange information with his al-Qaida associates. "So that clearly indicates that Osama, at this moment, is isolated," he said. "He is no longer effective as an operational commander or an al-Qaida commander."

The general, who provided no details of how the Pakistani government came by this information, says bin Laden's electronic communications network, which included satellite phones, computers and radios, has been virtually wiped out.

Pakistani officials believe the man is now protected by only a handful of his most loyal supporters and does not travel with large groups to avoid detection. He is thought to be hiding out in the rugged border region dividing Pakistan and Afghanistan, although nobody has claimed to have certain information about his whereabouts.

Pakistan has deployed more than 80,000 troops to the region to hunt for him and wipe out extremist base camps.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Pakistan has become a key ally in the U.S.-led war against terrorism. In those four years, Pakistan has helped capture several of al-Qaida's top officials, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who allegedly helped plan the September 11th attacks, VOA News reports.

Meanwhile the al-Qaeda movement has for the first time Monday broadcast a television news bulletin, via the Internet.