Afghan leader 'helped Bin Laden'

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The Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has claimed that his fighters helped Osama bin Laden escape US bombardment in the Tora Bora mountains five years ago.

Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister and leader of the Hezb-e-Islami group, told Pakistani television that when the US began its assault on the Afghan mountains in 2001, his fighters moved Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri to "a safe place". Bin Laden and Zawahiri are suspected to be still hiding along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Hekmatyar was a leader of the mujahedin that fought the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and was Afghan prime minister during the civil war of the early 1990s. Hekmatyar insisted he has not maintained links with al-Qa'ida. "We have no military operations outside of Afghanistan," he said. He also said he had proposed to the Taliban that the two militant groups join forces against US-led forces in Afghanistan, but the Taliban leaders did not support the idea.