Washington, Mar.15 (ANI): New investigation undertaken by a New York-based daily reveals that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden could be ensconced in Pakistan's trekker paradise of Chitral.
The area has been declared out of bounds for outsiders and is now regularly buzzed by American spy drones.
The U.S. won't say it officially, but an exhaustive investigation by the New York Daily News has zeroed in on Chitral's stunning peaks and deep valleys for the man responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.
Six U.S. and foreign officials confirmed to The News that northwestern Pakistan's impenetrable Hindu Kush mountains - which boast some of the world's tallest climbs - in the Chitral region have been eyed as Bin Laden's hideout since 2006 by Osama hunters aiming for the big kill.
A lengthy review of evidence, including recent Predator fly-bys, Bin Laden's tapes since 9/11 and interviews with three dozen experts on Al Qaeda, Pakistan and special operations, point to these vast mountains as the terror chief's most likely haven.
"Debriefings of Al Qaeda leaders arrested confirmed this," said Rohan Gunaratna, author of "Inside Al Qaeda."
Two senior foreign officials said the nearby town of Kalam also is suspect.
Drones were first spotted spying on Chitral last summer and were seen again as recently as Feb. 2. Chitral is so far from U.S.-run airfields that drone sorties are limited to just a few hours because of fueling issues.
CIA Director Leon Panetta has told Congress he asks "every day" where Bin Laden is hiding.
Reports of his location were rare after he escaped a U.S. onslaught in Afghanistan in 2001.
The News has revealed that only four of his tapes were ever recorded in the harsh winter months from January to March.
Most were made in the fall, and no tapes were recorded in winter after 2003 until a year ago.
Experts say this is a new clue, which may mean he lives so high up he's snowbound in winter - safer from attack but unable to dispatch couriers on foot with his screeds.
Chitral "is a natural route from Afghanistan" into the Hindu Kush, observed an ex-operative in "Alec Station," the CIA's Bin Laden unit.
The jagged range of shark's teeth peaks has always been a sanctuary for brigands lying low.
Chitral is 300 miles north of the Waziristan tribal belt U.S. drones have bombed 39 times since June.
But last month, Predators were over peaceful Chitral - no missiles have ever been fired there - for the fifth occasion since August.
Some intelligence officials downplay Chitral's importance or argue that Bin Laden is in a teeming Pakistani city similar to ones where his aides were nabbed after 9/11 - even though Al Qaeda leaders moved to the tribal areas years ago, where eight top goons have been assassinated in recent months. (ANI)