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September 23, 2006
Typhoid Osama? Well, Maybe

A leak from French intelligence hit the wires late last night and spread rapidly around the world. The information: Osama bin Laden died in a cave of typhoid last month. However, questions about the reliability of that intel have already prompted the French to admit that they have no confirmation of Osama's death:

France said a report that Osama bin Laden died this month of typhoid was unconfirmed, and launched an inquiry into how a preliminary intelligence brief detailing the assertion was leaked.

President Jacques Chirac stressed to journalists that "this information is in no way confirmed."

He added Saturday that he was "surprised" that the French newspaper l'Est Republicain had published an excerpt from a French secret service note relaying information from Saudi Arabia's intelligence service. ...

The note by the DGSE service, dated September 21 and published Saturday by l'Est Republicain, stated that Saudi intelligence officials "are now convinced that Osama bin Laden is dead."

It said that "information gathered by the Saudis" from a source they considered reliable indicates that bin Laden "might have succumbed to a very serious case of typhoid fever resulting in partial paralysis of his lower limbs while in Pakistan on August 23, 2006.

"His geographic isolation provoked by constant fleeing is believed to have made medical assistance impossible (and) on September 4, 2006, the Saudi security services received preliminary information of his death."

What we have is a rumor coming from Saudi intelligence to the French, and a note reporting the rumor got leaked to the press. AFP now says that European and Pakistani intelligence services that have tried to track Osama consider the intel unreliable. It's single-sourced data and unconfirmed by any other information, although Saudi intelligence has tried to get concrete evidence, such as a burial site.

We've been down the "Ding, Dong, Osama's Dead" path before. Analysts convinced themselves of Osama's room-temperature state in the past, only to sputter excuses when he showed up on a new video or audio tape. When they can prop up the body for the cameras or when AQ admits he's gone to his 72 virgins, then I'll bite. Until then, color me skeptical about unconfirmed rumors from either Saudi or French intelligence.

UPDATE: Apparently, Daily Kos diarist Mark Adams can't read. What part of "color me skeptical" doesn't he understand? But then again, why actually read what I write when he can just make it up for the Kossacks?

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 23, 2006 7:42 AM

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