LONDON – Iranian security forces have detained one of Usama bin Laden's sons among several hundred people suspected of links to the Al Qaeda terror network, the Financial Times reported on its Web site Saturday.
Citing an unidentified Iranian official, the newspaper said Iran had handed bin Laden's son over to authorities in either Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. The paper, which does not appear on Sundays, planned to publish the story in its Monday edition, said spokesman Gregory Roth.
The newspaper's report could not be independently verified.
In Iran, vice-president Mohammad Ali Abtahi told The Associated Press early Sunday that he was aware of the report, but "wouldn't confirm it unless credible information is available.''
Leading lawmaker Ali Shakouri-Rad, a close ally of President Mohammad Khatami, said he had no information on the reported capture. He added that it would be in Iran's interests to announce the capture if it were true, since it is trying to erase any suspicions it has ties to Al Qaeda.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Anne Marks said, "We are aware of the report and are looking into it."
Bin Laden has at least 23 children by several wives. One of the oldest, Saad bin Laden, who is about 22, has emerged as an Al Qaeda leader and one of America's top two dozen targets in the network. Mohammed and Ahmed bin Laden also support their father's efforts, U.S. officials say.
The official quoted by the Financial Times did not identify the son he said was detained. He reportedly said the man was captured with a group of people suspected of having links to Al Qaeda as they fled Afghanistan.
The paper quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi as saying the group numbered about 250 and that all the suspects had been returned to their home countries. He did not identify any of them.
In August, Saudi Arabia said Iran had extradited 16 Al Qaeda suspects to the Gulf kingdom. Kharrazi said the following month that Iran would continue its crackdown on Al Qaeda, arresting and deporting suspects.
The anonymous official was also quoted as saying he believed bin Laden was dead. U.S. officials have repeatedly said they do not know if the alleged architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America is dead or alive.