'French had bin Laden in rifle scopes'
French soldiers in Afghanistan had al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in their crosshairs — twice — but did not receive the order from their US commander to open fire, a French documentary reported.
The filmed report, by journalists Eric de Lavarene and Emmanuel Razavi, asserts that the French troops had bin Laden in their rifle scopes in 2003 and then again six months later in 2004.
Four French soldiers assigned to a 200-strong special forces unit in Afghanistan under US military control all confirmed — "at different times and in different places" — that they could have killed bin Laden but that the order to shoot was not forthcoming, the report claims.
The documentary, entitled 'Bin Laden: Failings of a Manhunt' and set to be shown on French cable television channel Planete at an unspecified date, relies on the accounts given by the four soldiers.
"We have the original voice recordings of the soldiers," Razavi told AFP. "But their anonymity has to be guaranteed."
However, the French defence ministry said the story was "pure fabrication".
"There is absolutely no basis of truth in what is being said," said spokesperson Jean-Francois Bureau.