Pakistan. Osama Bin Laden has announced he plans to retire early at the end of the year. The Al Queda chief executive revealed his surprise decision in a taped speech which was broadcast by an Arab news network early on Monday afternoon.
The Saudi national, who is in his fifties, was in a jovial mood in the tape - joking with others off camera and pretending to shoot them by using his fingers as an imaginary gun. He appeared calm and healthy and sported his preferred outfit of long grey beard, camouflage jacket, white under-robes and AK47.
"After many weeks of careful consultation with my closest friends and family I have decided to call time on my career. I will continue to work closely with my associates until the end of December when I then intend to quit as chief executive. The recent overthrow of the Iraqi and Kyrgzstan Presidents, as well as the death of Pope John Paul II, have made me more reflective about my own life - let's face it I'm not getting any younger !"
"I've had many happy times in my job over the years," he added, "but I feel that now is the right time for me to leave to pursue other interests". The USA's arch nemesis then paused to wipe away a tear before continuing, "I am very much looking forward to having more time to spend playing golf with the lads, pottering at home in the garden and giving my many grandchildren my Werthers' Originals. Thank you all."
Within hours of the the announcement tributes trickled in from such luminaries as Bono, Robert Mugabe and the former Labour MP George Galloway. The Zimbabwe despot hailed Bin Laden as "a shining example to us all in the pursuit of democracy. " George Galloway responded to the news by saying " he will no doubt leave an enormous hole in his wake," whilst holier-than-thou Irish songster Bono used more colloquial English - referring to the fugitive leader as "simply a wicked bloke!" George W Bush was unavailable for comment. A White House spokesman said an official comment would be made later, adding that the President was "jumping up and down" and "throwing his toys around" at the news.