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Times of London
Edition 5L THU 01 NOV 2001, Page 5
Ailing bin Laden 'treated secretly for kidney disease'
ADAM SAGE IN PARIS; OVERSEAS NEWS
KIDNEY stones rather than Stealth bombers could deal a mortal blow to Osama bin Laden it appeared yesterday after reports that the al-Qaeda leader recently smuggled himself into an expensive Gulf hospital. Needing urgent treatment for his ailing kidneys, bin Laden, 44, is said to have checked into the American Hospital in Dubai in July. Among those with him, it is thought, was Dr Ayman Zawahiri, who as well as being his personal physician is al-Qaeda's second-in-command.
The report in Le Figaro and on Radio France International said that bin Laden had stayed in hospital for ten days. There have been persistent rumours about the frailty of bin Laden's health. In recent videos he is generally not seen moving about. When he does take a few steps it is with the aid of a cane. Aides blame a back injury. Intelligence sources believe that bin Laden bought a dialysis machine earlier this year which he had shipped to Kandahar. His problem now will be operating such equipment and the risk of infection if, as seems likely, he is hiding out in Afghan mountains.
Last year the magazine Asiaweek said bin Laden was dying of a kidney disease. In desperation he is said to have turned to the United Arab Emirates, one of the three governments that recognised the Taleban regime. Bin Laden is known to have influential supporters in the Emirates and to have kept substantial funds in bank accounts there. He is believed to have flown out of Dubai on the morning of the September 11 hijackings.
According to Western diplomatic sources the UAE was the nearest safe destination for bin Laden to get the high quality, modern and urgent treatment he needed. Quoting an unnamed manager at the American Hospital, Le Figaro said that bin Laden arrived in Dubai on July 4 accompanied by four bodyguards, an Algerian male nurse and Dr Zawahiri, who stayed at his side at all times. They had flown to Dubai from Quetta in Pakistan. The newspaper said that bin Laden was treated in the urology department, run by Terry Callaway, a Canadian-trained doctor, and left on July 14. Dr Callaway is a specialist in kidney stones and male infertility.
During his stay, Le Figaro said, bin Laden was visited by a CIA agent. One source said that the US agent was "recognised taking the main lift in the hospital to go to Osama bin Laden's room". The agent was recalled to the US on July 15, the day after bin Laden left hospital, the newspaper said. The CIA last night flatly denied the report. Its spokeswoman, Anya Guelsher, said that it was "complete nonsense".
A diplomatic source said earlier: "There are lots of rumours flying around Dubai. At first sight, it seems highly unlikely that a member of the CIA would go and knock on bin Laden's hospital bedroom door." Bernard Koval, the director of the 100-bed hospital that opened in 1995, also denied that bin Laden had been a patient there. Dr Callaway was unavailable for comment.
Intelligence sources in France also questioned yesterday what US agents did with information that Paris passed to America about bin Laden's terrorist ambitions just a few days before September 11. One of his lieutenants, Djamel Beghal, a French-Algerian, who had been arrested in Dubai on his way back from Afghanistan to Europe, allegedly told police that he had been told by al-Qaeda to plan a terrorist attack on the US Embassy in Paris. Le Figaro said that on September 7 the French intelligence service met embassy officials in Paris to pass on the information.
© 2001 London Times
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