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Bush: Bin Laden in hiding and isolated

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who has eluded a U.S. manhunt, is plotting against the United States but has been isolated and driven into hiding, President Bush said Thursday.
/ Source: Reuters

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who has eluded a U.S. manhunt, is plotting against the United States but has been isolated and driven into hiding, President Bush said Thursday.

“He’s not out there traipsing around. He’s not leading many parades,” Bush told a news conference after being asked why bin Laden had not been caught. “He’s not out feeding the hungry. He’s isolated, trying to kill people to achieve his objective.”

Bush, who declared after the Sept. 11 2001 attacks that he wanted bin Laden captured dead or alive, pledged that the hunt would go on.

Security officials believe that bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are hiding in the mountainous region along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“He is in a remote region of the world. If I knew precisely where he is, we would take the appropriate action to bring him to justice,” Bush said.

“He is attempting to establish a base of operations in Iraq,” he said. So far bin Laden had not succeeded in establishing a cell there and “that’s why we’ve got to stay engaged,” Bush said.

“Had he been able to establish an internal cell that had safe haven, we would be a lot more in danger today than we are,” he said.

Bush has repeatedly warned that U.S. troops must stay in Iraq until it is secure and that al-Qaida must be defeated overseas or it will again launch attacks on U.S. soil.

Bin Laden and Zawahri have issued taped messages over the years showing they are still alive despite efforts by U.S. forces to find them.

Democrats, who have gained a more forceful voice since winning a majority in Congress in last year’s elections, criticize Bush for the Iraq war, saying it diverted resources from pursuing the al-Qaida leaders.

In trying to make a case for sending more troops to Iraq despite the increasing unpopularity of the war among the American public, Bush insists that al-Qaida and insurgents must be defeated there or they will “follow us” to the United States.

“I would hope our world hadn’t become so cynical that they don’t take the threats of al-Qaida seriously. Because they’re real,” Bush said.

He appeared to be referring in part to comments by Sen. John Edwards, a Democratic presidential hopeful, on Wednesday that Bush’s declared “war on terror” was “a slogan designed only for politics.”

Trying to rally support for his Iraq policy, Bush used a speech at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday to detail  continued efforts by bin Laden to attack on U.S. targets since Sept. 11.