Mystery over new hunt for Bin Laden

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The Independent Online

Pakistan is to mount new operations on its border with Afghanistan aimed at cornering al-Qa'ida terrorists in an area where Osama bin Laden may be hiding, Pakistani military and intelligence sources said last night.

News of the operation came as The Sunday Express in London claimed that bin Ladenand a small group of followers had been "boxed in" by US and British special forces in the mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Citing "two senior American sources" - a senior Republican and an intelligence source - the newspaper said Bin Laden was within a 10 mile by 10 mile area being monitored by a US spy satellite.

But Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said to his knowledge Bin Laden has not been "boxed in". "I do not have any such information," he said.

The operation would be the fourth of its kind since the 11 September 2001 attacks, the security sources said.

Bin Laden was not the immediate target of the operation, said one senior Pakistani intelligence official.

But, he said, it was hoped the operation would net clues that would ultimately lead to the "biggest evil".