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Wednesday
May042011

Top Five Osama Bin Laden Health Rumors: Fact or Fiction?

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In the years between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sunday's raid, rumors swirled about Osama bin Laden's health.  Some even believed he'd died in an area so remote that the best intelligence could not find him.

ABC News asked experts who have researched and written about bin Laden to weigh in on five of the most widely circulated rumors.  Here's what they said:

Kidney Disease -- Likely False

"Despite the fact that we have all been hearing about his kidney problems and the need for dialysis, according to the intelligence people I've talked to in Washington, there was no evidence of a dialysis machine in the compound where he was found," said Mary Anne Weaver, author of Pakistan: Deep Inside the World's Most Frightening State.

The exclusive video obtained by ABC News inside the compound also does not show any evidence of dialysis equipment.  There were what looked like medication bottles, but a closer look at the video reveals the bottles contain petroleum jelly, eye drops, olive oil, sunflower oil, an antiseptic and a nasal spray.

Marfan Syndrome -- Likely False

Along with the rumors about kidney disease, Weaver said the one about bin Laden having Marfan syndrome was also widely circulated.

Marfan syndrome affects the connective tissue that supports tendons, ligaments, heart valves and other parts of the body.  If it attacks the heart or the vessels of the heart, it could cause an enlarged heart or torn vessels.  Those with Marfan syndrome might be be tall and thin; have long, curved fingers; vision problems or no symptoms at all.

"The CIA suspected bin Laden had Marfan syndrome, but then the guy who briefed me on this said the information was negative a few months later," said Weaver.

Enlarged Heart and Low Blood Pressure -- Both Likely True

Weaver said officials told her bin Laden had an enlarged heart, and she reported that in her New York profiles of the most wanted terrorist.

"It was a fleeting mention by intelligence officials," she said.

Weaver also said she heard bin Laden had low blood pressure, but she never thought it was a serious condition.

Arm Injury -- Likely True

Experts say bin Laden was very likely injured in a 2001 battle in Tora Bora, the complex of caves in Afghanistan where U.S. forces believed members of al Qaeda were hiding.

"It does seem he may have been injured with shrapnel in Tora Bora," said Kenneth Katzman, a Congressional Research Service expert on Afghanistan.  "After his escape, he wasn't able to move it much."

In one of his earlier videos, bin Laden appears to be immobile on his left side, but Katzman said that his injury seems to have healed based on the viewing of subsequent videos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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