Originally created 03/07/03

Pakistani minister says two bin Laden sons arrested



ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The top police official in Pakistan's Baluchistan province said on Friday that two sons of Osama bin Laden were arrested in southwestern Afghanistan in a joint operation involving Pakistani and U.S. forces. American counterterrorism officials disputed the claim.

Seven other al-Qaida men were killed in the operation in which Saad and Hamza bin Laden were arrested in the Rabat region, Baluchistan Home Minister Sanaullah Zehri told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Zeheri, who as home minister is in charge of police, later announced the capture on Pakistani television and to other local and foreign reporters.

He said the sons may have been injured in the operation.

Saad, believed to be 23 years old and bin Laden's eldest son, is also on the American most-wanted list and has been said to be a rising star in the terror network.

The al-Qaida leader is believed to have up to 23 sons by several wives.

"They were arrested from Rabat area in Afghanistan," Zehri said from his home in Quetta, the Baluchistan provincial capital. The brothers were captured in the Rabat region in the extreme southwest of Afghanistan's Nimroz province where the borders of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet.

In Washington, U.S. counterterrorism officials strongly disputed the claim. They said they had no information that would suggest any of the sons had been detained.

A U.S. official told an AP Radio reporter at the White House: "We, in fact, think it's wrong."