KHOST, Afghanistan – This is the place, according to the regional Afghan military chief now working with the Americans, where Usama bin Laden is hiding.
"There is no doubt Usama is in Khost. He was in the city before. Now he's in the mountains," insists Kamal Khan Zadran, Khost military commander.
Afghan military commanders said the chaotic market is the source of food and supplies for Al Qaeda fighters in the mountains around the city. That's because the local population supports the Taliban, perhaps more than anywhere else in Afghanistan.
The latest reported bin Laden sighting, less than two weeks ago, came from a village near the Pakistan border. The witness, a senior Afghan official, told Fox News that bin Laden's overall appearance is largely unchanged, beard intact, but that he is noticeably thinner.
He was said to be traveling by horseback with 300 bodyguards, accompanied by Al Qaeda number two man Ayman Al-Zawahiri, as well as one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar. The former Taliban leader now reportedly has an artificial leg as well.
"We have had several tips on their location, but each time we arrive too late," said Kamal. "Their intelligence is superior to ours."
U.S. forces on the ground have refused to speak with journalists on the subject of the bin Laden sightings. But the constant roar of helicopters and warplanes overhead signals the hunt for any Al Qaeda forces in the mountains is well underway.
Bush administration officials in Washington have said repeatedly they cannot confirm the recent bin Laden sightings. The official position is that the U.S. does not know if the Al Qaeda leader is dead or alive, or where he might be if he is alive.
"We're not getting those same reports,'' Brigadier General John W. Rosa, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon earlier this week.
Asked whether officials believe that bin Laden is still in eastern Afghanistan, where hundreds of Al Qaeda militants are on the run, Rosa said, "We just don't know."
There have also been reports that bin Laden this week sent an e-mail to an Arabic newspaper in London slamming a Saudi peace plan adopted at an Arab summit in Beirut. Like the bin Laden sightings in Afghanistan, however, those reports could not be confirmed.