The French Defense Ministry strenuously denied a report Thursday that its special forces in Afghanistan twice had al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in their sights but did not get the go-ahead to kill him.
Ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau said there was "no foundation of truth" to the claim, which was reported on France-Info radio.
France Info's reporter in the region said French special forces troops told him that they twice, in 2003 and 2004, had bin Laden "within range" but never got orders to proceed from US commanders overseeing the Enduring Freedom anti-terrorism operation of which French forces were part. The reporter said he twice visited the French forces' base in southern Afghanistan.
Defense Ministry officials said, however, that while French forces were under US command, they operated autonomously and did not need permission to fight al-Qaida or Taliban forces.