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CIA Director: Bin Laden Isolated

The director of the U.S. intelligence agency says al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden appears to be isolated from the terrorist group's day-to-day operations and has been forced to devote much of his energy to his own security.

Michael Hayden said in a speech Thursday in Washington that hunting down bin Laden remains at the top of the CIA's priority list. Hayden suggested that the al-Qaida leader is hiding somewhere in the remote border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The intelligence chief also said bin Laden's death or capture would have a significant impact on the confidence of the terrorist leader's followers.

Hayden said al-Qaida remains the single greatest threat to the United States and that if a major strike on the U.S. occurs, it will bear the fingerprints of the terrorist organization. Additionally, he said al-Qaida is spreading its influence in Africa and the Middle East.

In May, however, the CIA director said al-Qaida is losing influence in the Middle East and is on the defensive in other parts of the world. Hayden told The Washington Post newspaper that Osama bin Laden is losing the ability to exploit the war in Iraq to recruit more members.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.