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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
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
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
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
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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