Gen. Henri Bentegeat said about 200 French troops were operating with U.S. forces in southeastern Afghanistan against the Taliban and bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The Saudi-born militant is thought to be there or just across the border in Pakistan.
“Our men were not very far. On several occasions, I even think he slipped out of a net that was quite well closed,” he told Europe 1 radio. He did not specify a time frame.
Bentegeat, who spoke as if he were sure bin Laden was in Afghanistan, said the country’s difficult terrain explained why it was so hard to catch the world’s most wanted man.
“In Afghanistan, the terrain is extremely favorable to escapes, there are underground networks everywhere,” he said.
The general said it was essential that bin Laden be caught.
“He symbolizes September 11 and is certainly not completely innocent in what happened in Madrid,” he said, making a link between the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington and the Spanish train bombings last Thursday.0