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New Delhi: As late as six months ago, Pakistan vehemently denied that Osama bin Laden was hiding in its territory. An unnamed NATO official said Oct 18, 2010 that Osama was 'alive and well and living comfortably' in Pakistan, protected by elements of the country's intelligence services.

The official said Osama was not holed up in any cave and added that Taliban leader Mullah Omar was also in Pakistan.

A senior Pakistani official immediately denied the report and said the statement was designed to put pressure on Islamabad ahead of its talks with the US.

It was not the only time when Pakistan denied mounting speculation -- and allegations -- about Osama's presence in Pakistani territory.

Since Osama escaped from Afghanistan after 9/11, Pakistan has been regularly identified as his suspected hiding place.

A Dec 11, 2005 letter from Al Qaeda operative Atiyah Abd al-Rahman to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi indicated that Osama and the Al Qaeda leadership were based in the Waziristan region of Pakistan at that time.

In the letter, translated by the US military, 'Atiyah' instructed Zarqawi to 'send messengers from your end to Waziristan so that they meet with the brothers of the leadership...'

In 2009, a research team led by Thomas W. Gillespie and John A. Agnew of UCLA University of California used satellite-aided geographical analysis to pinpoint three compounds in Parachinar as Osama's likely hideouts.

Parachina, capital of Kurram Agency, lies 290 km west of Islamabad. In March 2009, the daily News reported that the hunt for Osama had centred in Chitral district of Pakistan.

Early in December 2009, a Taliban detainee in Pakistan claimed he had information that Osama was in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials angrily denied this, insisting that the Al Qaeda leaders were very much holed up in Pakistan, who’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) built up the Taliban and had ties with Osama too.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani rebutted the Afghans, insisting that the world's most wanted terrorist was not hiding in Pakistan.

Although he disappeared from public view after fleeing Afghanistan a decade ago, Al Qaeda kept releasing time-sensitive and professionally-verified videos demonstrating Osama's continued survival.

US military and intelligence officials made it clear that speculation about his death was misleading, aimed perhaps at calling off the massive manhunt.

(Agencies)