Monday, September 06, 2004

Has Bin?

Official: Bin Laden Capture Close
9:35 am PST, 6 September 2004

A top U.S. counterterrorism official said Sunday al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is close to being captured, and that U.S. forces have moved closer to him in the past two months.

"If he has a watch, he should be looking at it because the clock is ticking. He will be caught," Joseph Cofer Black, the U.S. State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, told private Geo television network in Pakistan.

Black was asked if recent Pakistani arrests of a number of suspected al Qaeda operatives has led the U.S. closer to bin Laden. "Yes, I would say this," he answered.

"What I tell people, I would be surprised but not necessarily shocked if we wake up tomorrow and he's been caught along with all his lieutenants. That can happen because of the programs and infrastructure in place," Black said.

Black briefed a group of Pakistani journalists after talks with government officials Friday. He said he could not say exactly when bin Laden would be apprehended.

Pakistan has become a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, though initially critics said elements within the government were aiding and abetting al Qaeda and other terrorists.

Recent mass arrests by Pakistan of suspected al Qaeda operatives have led to valuable information for U.S. intelligence officials and agencies searching for bin Laden.

During talks last week, Pakistan asked the U.S. for more helicopters, surveillance gear and communications equipment to help its forces guard border areas near Afghanistan "more efficiently," a Pakistani official at the talks said.

Islamabad has deployed some 70,000 soldiers along its border with Afghanistan, and has also conducted a number of military operations this year in its lawless and largely autonomous tribal regions against al-Qaida suspects.

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