11 September 2001>News Stories>U.S. Tells Afghans of Rewards for bin Laden

U.S. Tells Afghans of Rewards for bin Laden
James Risen and Thom Shanker . NYTimes . 20 November

A journalist looked at the bedroom of a bunker near Jalalabad reportedly used by Osama bin Laden. American warplanes bombed the compound this month.

The United States stepped up its efforts to persuade the Afghan people to turn over Osama bin Laden, as American military aircraft began broadcasting a radio message into the country announcing a $25 million cash reward for information leading to his location or capture.

The radio broadcasts, which also identified other leaders of Mr. bin Laden's Qaeda organization thought to be hiding in Afghanistan, are the latest elements of a United States strategy to rely heavily on anti-Taliban rebels and other Afghans to help reveal the whereabouts of Mr. bin Laden, a Saudi exile.

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld made it clear today that special operations forces were not planning to mount a cave-by-cave hunt for Mr. bin Laden, but would continue to apply pressure by setting up roadblocks and gathering intelligence. He suggested that the United States will rely more heavily both on bombing raids and anti-Taliban Afghan forces in the hunt.

Four foreign journalists were kidnapped and shot today on the road from Jalalabad to Kabul, the capital.

Hundreds of Egyptians and other Arabs who are part of Mr. bin Laden's network are still thought to be inside Afghanistan. Many of them are among the estimated 3,000 foreign fighters besieged in the northeastern Afghan city of Kunduz, where they are surrounded by about 30,000 Northern Alliance troops.

Several hundred Pakistani fighters who are among the thousands who joined the Taliban in recent years are also believed to have sought refuge in Kunduz, including relatives of some powerful clerics, a Pakistani intelligence official said. Saving them could improve the strained relations between Pakistan's leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and his country's hard-line religious parties, which have opposed his assistance to the United States.

Defense Department officials said that American warplanes carried out heavy strikes today around the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, and Mr. Rumsfeld said that the Taliban's leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, would not be allowed to negotiate his escape from the city.

Mr. Rumsfeld made it clear that Mullah Omar could surrender and be taken prisoner or, presumably, die in combat, but that seeking asylum in a foreign country or receiving amnesty within Afghanistan would not be acceptable to the United States.

In recent days the American bombing campaign has begun to pay dividends in the efforts to destroy the Qaeda leadership, apparently increasing the Pentagon's confidence that it can track down Mr. bin Laden without placing large numbers of American ground forces on missions with a high risk of casualties.

American intelligence officials believe that Mohammed Atef, Al Qaeda's chief of military operations and a potential successor to Mr. bin Laden, was killed in a bombing raid last week.

The officials said today that new intelligence reports received over the weekend indicate that he was killed in a raid on a building near Kabul last Tuesday night, rather than later in the week as initially believed.

The building was a target because United States intelligence believed that it housed a large group of Al Qaeda members. Approximately 50 Al Qaeda officials were in the building and are presumed to have been killed, American intelligence officials said today.

American intelligence and military officials do not think that Mr. bin Laden was in the building, and instead believe that he is still in southeastern Afghanistan, hiding in the rural area with some of his lieutenants and security forces.

There is no evidence that he has yet tried to flee Afghanistan. A Pentagon official said that a psychological profile of Mr. bin Laden drafted after Sept. 11 predicted that, based on his past behavior, he would not try to flee from the country and go into hiding but would make a final stand with a loyal band of bodyguards.

A former American law enforcement official who has been involved in investigating Mr. bin Laden over much of the last decade said the search has narrowed to an area of 30 square miles in the district of Maruf, about 100 miles east of Kandahar.

"Nobody wants him alive," the former official said. "The United States doesn't want him captured alive, his own people don't want him captured alive, and bin Laden himself decided long ago that he wouldn't be captured alive. He's a smart enough man to know that he has no options."

He said the United States would not need Mr. bin Laden's body in order to claim victory, adding, "His silence will be enough."

The American radio messages about the reward, broadcast into Afghanistan by an airborne special operations forces radio station aboard an EC-130 aircraft code- named Commando Solo, began Sunday night. They called on the people of Afghanistan to "drive out the foreign terrorists" and promised cash rewards for information on the location of Mr. bin Laden and eight other Al Qaeda leaders indicating that the United States has gathered more information on the identities of Al Qaeda leaders still in Afghanistan than it has previously disclosed.

In addition to Mr. bin Laden and his top lieutenants, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Zubaydah, the broadcast also identifies several other men believed to be hiding in Afghanistan after playing major roles in the bombing of two American Embassies in East Africa in 1998, the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen in Oct. 2000, and the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The group includes Abdu al- Nashri, suspected of helping plan the Cole bombing; al-Gaith Abu Yousef, a Qaeda leader suspected of playing a role in the Sept. 11 attacks; Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Abdullab, suspected of involvement in the embassy bombings; and Saif al- Adel, a senior aide to Mr. bin Laden. The broadcast also identifies Abu Hafs, an alias for Muhammad Atef. It appears that the script was written before the reports of his death.

In addition to the radio broadcasts, the Pentagon has begun dropping thousands of leaflets in Afghanistan calling for help from the Afghans in hunting Mr. bin Laden. About 10,000 leaflets were dropped tonight in the area of the northern city of Mazar-i- Sharif, and more will be dropped in other regions in coming days, officials said.

Mr. Rumsfeld said today that he hoped that the cash rewards will persuade Afghans to "begin crawling through those tunnels and caves looking for the bad folks."

Pentagon officials said Special Operations forces were contributing in two ways to the hunt for Mr. bin Laden.

Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, are working as liaison to the anti-Taliban forces, helping with providing supplies and weapons and calling in airstrikes. Other Special Operations forces have already engaged in skirmishes with Taliban and Al Qaeda forces.

At present, several hundred American Special Operations forces are in Afghanistan, and Mr. Rumsfeld said today that he now believes that the number is about at the level he wants. But sending missions into the caves of southern Afghanistan, he said, would require a different force structure, and he indicated that he does not foresee the American special operations forces conducting such missions except under extraordinary circumstances.

President Bush today echoed statements from Mr. Rumsfeld and others in his administration that the search for Mr. bin Laden is narrowing. "The more territory we gain, the more success there is on the ground, the more people we've got looking to help us in our mission," President Bush said. "We're hunting him down."