ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Usama bin Laden (search) is alive and in good health, as is fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar (search), a purported senior commander of the ousted Afghan religious militia said in a TV interview broadcast Wednesday.
Pakistan's Geo television broadcast the interview with a man it identified as Taliban (search) military commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani (search), a former Afghan aviation minister who said he still receives instructions from Omar.
Asked whether bin Laden is hiding in areas of Afghanistan (search) that are under Taliban control, the man said he would not specify where the terrorist mastermind was hiding.
"Thanks be to God, he is absolutely fine," the man said.
The man wore a black turban to shield his face, making it impossible to recognize him or verify his identity. He wore a gray jacket, and an AK-47 rifle was propped next to him as he spoke in front of a red-patterned, Afghan-style rug.
Geo said the interview was recorded last week, but declined to say where.
Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao, the government's chief spokesman Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and officials at the Interior Ministry were not available for comment Wednesday. In Afghanistan, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry also had no immediate comment, and an official at the presidency could not be reached.
A senior journalist at the independent station said on condition of anonymity that the interview was done near the Afghan town of Spinboldak (search), which is close to the Pakistani border.
The interview was conducted in broken Urdu, Pakistan's main language and the language in which Geo broadcasts most of its programs. Most senior Taliban speak Pashtu.
The man said the Taliban are still organized and senior Taliban leaders hold regular consultations.
"Our discipline is strong. We have regular meetings. We make programs," the man said.
He said Omar does not attend the meetings but "decisions come from his side." He did not say where those meetings take place.
In speaking about Omar, the man referred to the Taliban chief by his self-proclaimed title of "ameerul momineen" — "leader of the faithful."
"Ameerul momineen is our chief and leader. No one is against him. Our ameerul momineen is alive. He is all right. There is no problem. He is not sick. He is my commander. He gives me instructions," the man said.
Asked whether he has direct contact with Omar, the man said: "I will not say whether I meet with him or not. But he is giving instructions."
A U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in late 2001. The offensive was launched after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden and dismantle Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.