Osama in Alaska? Tabloid says bin Laden's here; troopers say they're 'on it'

Posted: Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Weekly World News claims to have found the world's most-wanted terrorist. Osama bin Laden - perhaps embarrassed by his habitual bed-wetting, or seeking a scenic backdrop for his new reality show - is occupying a love nest in Alaska.

Bin Laden "is living with Eskimos somewhere in Alaska and has taken an Eskimo bride to help conceal his identity," according to the nationwide newspaper, generally considered the most outrageous of the nation's supermarket checkout-stand tabloids.

It cites a secret CIA memo as its source, along with an audio tape that claims the terrorist flew from Pakistan to Juneau in May before going north to live with a mystery woman known only as "Falana, the bride."

"That notable titan of the tundra, that sheikh of the sheet ice, he doesn't want to be a terrorist no more," the Weekly World News quotes the tape as saying. "He wants to spend the rest of his days in a cozy igloo with his beloved."

The News does not mention that Canadian, not Alaskan, Eskimos use snow igloos.

Eric Gonzalez, a special agent for the FBI office in Anchorage, told the Empire the agency isn't actively following up on the allegations in the World Weekly News.

"We follow up on every lead," he said. "Right now there is no credible evidence that that would lead us to believe that bin Laden was able to travel from Afghanistan to the Bush."

Several law enforcement officials interviewed by the Empire were quick to denounce the credibility of the publication, ducking the Weekly World News' allegation of a large-scale cover-up.

"The citizens of the state of Alaska can rest confident knowing we are on this," said Alaska State Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson. "There's information we can't share."

Wilkinson said no further information about the developing situation has reached his office.

"I'm sure this stuff is on a need-to-know basis, and I didn't need to know," he said.

So how is it Juneau's airport security staff can nab every working stiff who brings a nail clipper through security, yet miss the world's most-wanted terrorist?

"We had no advance information about this," said Airport Manager Al Hesse. "In fact, this is the first notice we've had about it. If we'd had notice, we would have been on high alert and nabbed him as he got off the airplane."

Perhaps it was his disguise: World Weekly News reports bin Laden shaved his beard and lightened his skin, traveling "in the guise of an American evangelist." But he appears to look like his former self in a doctored photo showing him dog-sledding on an icefield surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

The Florida-based publication promotes itself for pursuing news tips most media organizations "are too scared to touch," be it the bin Laden tape or press releases from aliens endorsing political candidates. It recently claimed a paid circulation of about 250,000 copies a week.

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