Osama bin Laden narrowly escaped capture by French troops working with American forces in Afghanistan, perhaps several times, the head of Franceâ€™s armed forces said Monday.
French soldiers are determined to capture the fugitive head of the al-Qaida network by the end of the year, Gen. Henri Bentegeat said Monday.
â€˜â€˜Our men were not very far,â€™â€™ Bentegeat told Franceâ€™s Europe-1 radio station. â€˜â€˜On several occasions, I even think that he slipped out of a net that was well closed.â€™â€™
Bentegeat did not say when or where the escapes took place and a Defense Ministry spokeswoman declined to give details.
Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the rugged mountains on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Bentegeat said that about 200 French troops are working with American forces in Afghanistan in the hunt for holdouts of the ousted Taliban regime and al-Qaida.
â€˜â€˜In Afghanistan, the terrain is extremely favorable to escapes, there are underground networks everywhere,â€™â€™ Bentegeat said.
On March 7, the U.S. military announced the start of a new sweep for insurgents and terror leaders, including bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Bentegeat said bin Laden â€˜â€˜symbolizes Sept. 11â€™â€™ and that the intricacy of bombings last Thursday in Madrid â€” when 10 bombs tore through four rush-hour trains just minutes apart â€” suggested the involvement of al-Qaida. The attack killed 200 people.
Bentegeat called al-Qaida a â€˜â€˜hydra with several heads.â€™â€™
â€˜â€˜If we catch one head there will be others,â€™â€™ he said. But, â€˜â€˜for justice, for the innumerable victims of these monstrous attacks, it is indispensable.â€™â€™0