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Taliban leaders dispute bin Laden death

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Newspapers featuring front page coverage of the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden is sold in Beijing on May 3,, 2011. China called the killing of bin Laden a landmark event in the continuing fight against global terrorism and expressed support for close ally Pakistan amid suggestions Islamabad's security forces may have sheltered the world's most wanted man. UPI/Stephen Shaver
Newspapers featuring front page coverage of the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden is sold in Beijing on May 3,, 2011. China called the killing of bin Laden a landmark event in the continuing fight against global terrorism and expressed support for close ally Pakistan amid suggestions Islamabad's security forces may have sheltered the world's most wanted man. UPI/Stephen Shaver | License Photo

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 5 (UPI) -- Taliban leaders disputed the killing of Osama bin Laden, with some claiming the al-Qaida leader had died some time back, Pakistan News International reported.

Bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in a raid last Monday on his compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad, near Islamabad.

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The News International report said the Taliban commanders and leaders, with links to al-Qaida, spoke by telephone from undisclosed locations.

The commanders from Pakistani and Afghanistan claimed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency had learned of bin Laden's death from al-Qaida operatives captured in Pakistan but went ahead with its operation to claim credit, the report said.

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"The Americans would never be able to show any evidence that they killed Sheik Osama. I am saying with full authority that the Sheik has not been gunned down," a senior Taliban commander claimed, the report said.

It was not clear whether the commanders' statements were timed to correspond with a White House announcement Wednesday that President Barack Obama had decided against releasing photos of bin Laden's body as they could be used to rally opinion against the United States.

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Other commanders claimed bin Laden, in the past, had spent time in the same Abbottabad compound, along with his family, but the newspaper said no dates of his stay were provided.

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A senior commander claimed bin Laden had undergone surgery twice to treat his kidney disease but his condition deteriorated and he died after being bed-ridden for five months, News International reported. Again, no date of his death was given.

"There is no truth in whatever the U.S. leadership has been telling the Americans and rest of the world about Sheik Osama's death at a house in Abbottabad city," the commander said.

One commander claimed bin Laden was buried in a secret grave known only to a few people, the report said.

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"(U.S. President) Barack Obama and his administration would make their nation wait for decades but would never show any evidence about shooting Sheik Osama dead at that house in Abbottabad," he claimed.

The commanders said bin Laden had nominated his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri to succeed him in the presence of top al-Qaida leadership.

They also claimed bin Laden had paid for the land in Abbottabad where his compound was built.

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