Report: Oldest Bin Laden Son Freed By Iran

CBS News' Farhan Bokhari reports from Islamabad:

Iran has quietly released Osama bin Laden's elder son and is likely to have "pushed him across Western Afghanistan's bordering Heart region" towards the end of 2008, a senior Arab diplomat said on Saturday, responding to reports of the younger bin Laden having eventually arrived in Pakistan.

"I don't know where he may be presently located - he could be on either side of the Pak-Afghan border after traveling from western Afghanistan," said the diplomat with access to intelligence information, who spoke to CBS News in Islamabad on condition of anonymity.

Saad bin Laden, 27, is one of the 19 children of the world's most notorious terrorist suspect who has evaded capture for more than seven years since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington unleashed the U.S.'s war on terror.

According to earlier press reports, on Friday Mike McConnell, the director of U.S. national intelligence, said Saad bin Laden was probably in Pakistan, suggesting his refuge was the country's lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border.

CBS News' Leily Lankarani in Tehran writes that there has been response from Iranian authorities on these reports.

Saad bin Laden was believed by Western and Pakistani intelligence officials to have been captured by the Iranians when he tried escaping via Iran in late 2001, following a U.S. attack on Afghanistan.

The Arab diplomat who spoke to CBS News said it was unlikely that the younger bin Laden was "anywhere near his father." He said the pattern so far sketched of Osama bin Laden's own movements gave no account of his family being ever close to him.

"He (Osama bin Laden) has kept himself far away from his clan," the diplomat said. "That's one reason why he is able to move at very short notice: Imagine going around with 19 kids following you."

Pakistani officials responding to the report said they had no information on the younger bin Laden's location, though one senior official said it was more likely that he traveled via Afghanistan rather than crossing into Pakistan from the country's land border along Iran. "Travelling via Pakistan was more risky, it would have taken him through some heavily populated areas," said a Pakistani official who also spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity.

The Pakistani official refused to be drawn into speculation of Saad bin Laden's final destination being Pakistan's border areas along Afghanistan, saying, "How do I know where he went? My guess is that somewhere along the Pak-Afghan border would be his final destination, but I don't know for certain."

A Western diplomat in Islamabad with access to intelligence information on terrorist movements said it was impossible to know why the Iranians released the younger bin Laden.

"For the past two months, the rumor has been that the Iranians released Saad bin Laden but no one knows why. Maybe they (Iranians) are keen to get such baggage off their hands in anticipation of making a new start with President Obama, but this is all speculation," said the diplomat who spoke to CBS News on condition that he would not be named.
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