Osama bin Laden dead? I don’t want to make too big a deal of this–yet. But according to a regional French newspaper that obtained a classified French secret service report, the Saudis are convinced bin Laden died of typhoid in August in Pakistan.
The newspaper printed what it said was a copy of the report dated September 21 and said it was shown to President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and France’s interior and defense ministers on the same day.
“According to a usually reliable source, the Saudi services are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead,” the document said.
“The information gathered by the Saudis indicates that the head of al Qaeda was a victim while he was in Pakistan on August 23, 2006, of a very serious case of typhoid which led to a partial paralysis of his internal organs.”
The report, which was stamped with a “confidential defense” label and the initials of the French secret service, said Saudi Arabia first heard the information on September 4 and that it was waiting for more details before making an official announcement.
A senior official in Pakistan said no foreign government had shared information with Pakistan that would back up the report of bin Laden’s death.
Now, reports of bin Laden’s death have been exaggerated before. What makes this report particularly interesting is that the French Defense Ministry has essentially confirmed the existence of the secret service report, saying publicly that while it cannot confirm that bin Laden is dead, it will launch an inquiry into the leak of the secret document and seek criminal charges against the leaker.
Late update: U.S. government unable to confirm bin Laden death report.
Later update: Not dead yet, according to CNN source.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has a water-borne illness, a Saudi intelligence source told CNN on Saturday, knocking down a report in a French newspaper that the man who has been hunted by the United States for the past five years is dead.
The Saudi intelligence source told CNN’s Nic Robertson that there have been credible reports for the past several weeks that bin Laden is ill, but there has been no word of his death.