PARIS - A French intelligence memo suggesting Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden
might have died of typhoid has been met with scepticism around the world,
including the highest levels of the French government.
United States, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all said they had no evidence to
support the assertion in the memo, which was published Saturday in the French
regional newspaper l'Est Republicain and Sunday in Le Parisien.
This is an undated photo of Osama bin Laden,
in Afghanistan. President Jacques Chirac said Saturday Sept. 23, 2006 that
information contained in a leaked intelligence document raising the
possibility that Osama bin Laden may have died of typhoid in Pakistan last
month is 'in no way whatsoever confirmed.'
"To my knowledge, Osama bin Laden is not dead. It is quite simple," French
Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told French television on Sunday.
French President Jacques Chirac on Saturday confirmed the memo was genuine,
stating he was "surprised" it had been made public and ordering an investigation
into its leak.
But he stressed that the information it gave was "in no way confirmed."
However, persistent reports that bin Laden was struck with illness fueled
speculation about his fate.
The confidential document, drafted by the French foreign intelligence service
DGSE and dated September 21, stated that according to a normally reliable source
Saudi Arabia's intelligence services were "convinced that Osama bin Laden is
It said the 49-year-old Saudi Islamic militant, who has been held responsible
for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, succumbed to typhoid
fever in Pakistan between August 23 and September 4.
The Saudis were seeking evidence of bin Laden's death, notably by looking for
his remains, the memo said.
In response, the Saudi embassy in Washington issued a two-sentence statement
saying "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has no evidence to support recent media
reports that Osama bin Laden is dead."
"Information that has been reported otherwise is purely speculative and
cannot be independently verified," the statement stressed.
It did not, however, address the French intelligence memo nor say whether its
evaluation of what Saudi intelligence believed was inaccurate.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice simply said: "No comment, and no
Several US intelligence officials told US media they had noticed no unusual
Internet or communications "chatter" which would likely follow such a momentous
Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Sherpao, told AFP in Islamabad: "No, we
do not have any such information with us."
Security officials hunting Al-Qaeda in Pakistan rejected the report. A senior
official told AFP on condition of anonymity that "no such information has been
shared" by the Saudis and that it was "inconceivable that an event of this
nature would remain unnoticed in Pakistan".
Bin Laden has several times been rumoured to have died in the past, only to
appear later in audio or video recordings.