Taliban: bin Laden A Free Man

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban party has denied a report that Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, was being held under house arrest.

Taliban spokesman Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil said bin Laden "is free to go anywhere he wants in Afghanistan." But Muttawakil added that "he cannot talk to the press, and he cannot conduct any political activity."

The London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Friday that bin Laden was being held in a house in the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan. The Taliban religious army, the newspaper reported, has prevented any contact between bin Laden and his followers and has prohibited his access to the media.

Muttawakil, a spokesman for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, said in Afghanistan that if there is any proof of wrongdoing against bin Laden, "we have high courts in Afghanistan and we will try him." Taliban official had said in the past that bin Laden could stay in Afghanistan as long as he wants, even if his presence invites another barrage of U.S. missiles.

The United States fired Tomahawk cruise missiles into Afghanistan and Sudan in retaliation for the Aug. 7 embassy bombings, which killed 258 people and wounded thousands.

In Afghanistan, two alleged terrorist training camps were hit in the Aug. 20 attack, including one believed to have been operated by bin Laden. He was not harmed in the attack.

The Taliban controls 90 percent of Afghanistan and has alienated many with its strict interpretation of Islam. But it has said it does not share bin Laden's hatred of the United States.