Pakistani authorities on Tuesday dismissed rumors that Usama bin Laden might have moved to the country's mountainous north to evade arrest, and that CIA or FBI agents had been operating there to hunt for clues about the Al Qaeda leader.
Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao and police in Chitral — a sedate mountain resort town 155 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad — said they had no information on the whereabouts of bin Laden, long thought to be hiding further south in volatile tribal regions where Al Qaeda and Taliban militants are active.
The comments came in response to a report in Tuesday's New York Times suggesting that Chitral had become the latest site of interest in the hunt for bin Laden. The town is often visited by trekkers and mountaineers exploring the spectacular peaks of the Hindu Kush, near the border with northeastern Afghanistan.
The newspaper quoted a lawmaker from the town, Abdul Akbar Chitrali, as saying agents from the FBI or CIA had arrived there to look for bin Laden.
Asked to comment on the report, Sherpao said Pakistan does not have any information on where bin Laden could be hiding. He said neither the FBI nor the CIA had set up offices in Chitral.
"These sort of stories keep appearing but ... we have no knowledge about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden," he told a news conference in the capital, Islamabad.
The police chief in Chitral, Fazal Elahi, told The Associated Press that some Americans had stayed in the town recently and police had provided them with security. He declined to give further details about the visitors, but said he was not aware that they were agents.
Officials at the U.S. Embassy were not immediately available for comment.
Pakistan has repeatedly insisted there is no evidence that the Al Qaeda chief is hiding in the country.
On Monday, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said bin Laden was more likely to be in Afghanistan.