Spy chief says bin Laden paid for escape

April 14, 2005 at 4:49 AM
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BERLIN, April 14 (UPI) -- Osama bin Laden escaped from U.S. forces in 2001 by bribing the Afghan militias assigned to track him down, Germany's spy chief has said.

August Hanning, head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, told German newspaper Handelsblatt that using Afghans was the United States' key mistake in the hunt for bin Laden, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Bin Laden paid "a lot of money" to buy his escape from the Tora Bora caves on the border of Pakistan during the U.S. attack in 2001, Hanning said.

The United States has said it used Afghan fighters to reduce casualties among its troops.

Retired Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the U.S. attack on Afghanistan's Taliban in October 2001, has said it is possible that some of the Afghan groups loosely allied to the United States may have allowed Taliban and al-Qaida fugitives to escape in exchange for money, but he did not say whether bin Laden was one of the fugitives.

After escaping from U.S. forces, bin Laden was able to create a network of sympathizers among tribes in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hanning said.

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