RealNews

Manhunt for bin Laden and Top Aide, Zawahiri, Continues to Be Fruitless

For months American troops and covert operatives have combed the rugged outlands of eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan in search of Osama bin Laden and his principal deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The fruitless manhunt serves as a reminder of the Bush administration’s inability to achieve one of the main goals of its antiterror effort, the capture of Al Qaeda’s leaders. Mr. bin Laden and Mr. Zawahiri are not only at large, but apparently are the sources of recent taped exhortations urging followers to carry out more violence. Pakistani officials are now saying Mr. Zawahiri fled Afghanistan in late 2001, only weeks after the Americans began bombing Qaeda and Taliban strongholds there, an assertion strongly rejected by American intelligence officials. In separate interviews in the last week, two Pakistani officials said Mr. Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born surgeon regarded as the terror network’s No. 2 leader, was smuggled across the porous border into Pakistan and escaped by boat across the Arabian Sea, possibly to the Middle East or North Africa. The Pakistani officials said the information about Mr. Zawahiri’s escape had come to them only in the last few weeks. They said their sources were diverse: paid informers as well as Qaeda suspects interrogated after being picked up in recent raids in Pakistan. According to the informers and prisoners, Mr. Zawahiri was in the small southeastern Afghan city of Khost, a main Qaeda training center, in October 2001 when his wife and at least one of his children were killed in the American bombings, the Pakistani officials said. Full Story

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