Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is living comfortably in a house in northwest Pakistan, close to his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, CNN on Monday quoted a NATO official as saying.
The Saudi-born militant, who is wanted for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was being protected by local people and “some members of the Pakistani intelligence services,” CNN said.
It also said that the al-Qaeda number two, the Egyptian-born Zawahiri, was living close to him.
“Nobody in al-Qaeda is living in a cave,” the unnamed senior NATO official is quoted as saying.
“The official also confirmed the US assessment that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has moved between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan over the last several months,” said the report on CNN’s website.
It said the NATO official could not be named “because of the sensitivity of the intelligence matters involved”.
Pakistan’s mountainous North Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan, is believed to be a vortex of Afghan, Pakistani and Arab militants, and long held to be a possible hiding place for bin Laden.
Pakistani authorities have denied they are providing protection for the terror mastermind, who has a $US25 million ($A25.25 million) bounty on his head.
Bin Laden is believed to have escaped to the area from Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region, which was a Taliban stronghold during the US-led invasion of late 2001 that unseated the Islamist regime that had provided him with safe haven.
The invasion was launched to punish the Taliban for allowing al-Qaeda to train and plot the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed around 3,000 people.
The militants soon regrouped to launch an insurgency which is being fought by more than 150,000 US and NATO troops.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted in an interview earlier this month that bin Laden and Zawahiri — who also has a $US25 million ($A25.25 million) price on his head — would eventually would be hunted down.