The news of the death of al-Qaida's chief was reported in the Saturday edition of l'Est Republicain, a respected regional daily. The French paper cites a memo they claim was obtained from the French counter-espionage agency, the Direction Générale des Services Extérieurs, or the DGSE.
Bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist is believed to have died last August as a result of typhoid fever while he was in a remote part of Pakistan, according to the French newspaper.
The report of bin Laden's death was however not confirmed by official sources in either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia.
But a Saudi intelligence source told United Press International: "We are not saying he is dead, but there is a lot of truth in the report." The Saudi source, who spoke on condition that his name not be revealed, confirmed the existence of a Saudi intelligence report relating to the health of bin Laden. And according to that Saudi Arabian intelligence document, it states, "bin Laden was very ill these past few weeks."
The Saudi source told UPI the French intelligence report must have concluded that Saudi authorities believes bin Laden to be dead.
"There is no way we can prove that bin Laden is dead until we can see the body," the Saudi intelligence source told UPI. But, he stressed, "A good portion of what is in the report is true."
For the moment, the source went on to say, "We do not confirm bin Laden's death. "We don't know."
Making the report all the more credible was the choice by those in French counter-intelligence of where to leak the Saudi report, the regional L'Est Republicain, rather than one of the larger Paris-based dailies.
"There is a history with that paper," the Saudi source told UPI. The newspaper is known to have had intelligence reports leaked to it in the past. "They are very reliable," said the Saudi official.
The information purporting the death of the world's most sought after terrorist is based on what the newspaper calls "a usually reliable source," stating that Saudi intelligence sources "are convinced" of bin Laden's death.
The French intelligence report goes on to say, still according to the French daily, that bin Laden died in Pakistan on August 23 after suffering "from a severe bout of typhoid fever," and a bacterial infection provoked a paralysis of his lower body.
The Saudi intelligence report states that bin Laden's geographic isolation "rendered all medical assistance impossible. Indeed, U.S. intelligence sources have long believed bin Laden was hiding in remote parts of Pakistan, close to the border with Afghanistan, areas where sophisticated medical help would be difficult to obtain.
The news of bin Laden's death reached the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Sept. 4. If confirmed, that, in part, might explain the complete absence of Osama bin Laden from making any appearances on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon just outside Washington, DC.
Instead, a videotape by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was released to television news networks.
The French daily reports that the internal and confidential memo from the DGSE reporting the death of "the enemy number one" of the United States and of the West, was handed over to the Presidency of the French republic on Sept. 21.
(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)