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Bin Laden said to be tougher to catch

Published June 9, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Tracking down Osama bin Laden has proved tougher than getting Abu Musab al-Zarqawi because the top al-Qaida leader does little to call attention to himself and is protected by a ring of far more faithful followers, intelligence experts said Thursday.

The mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks is likely holed up along the Pakistani-Afghan border in rugged, remote terrain, protected by loyal tribesmen.

Zarqawi was killed Wednesday just 30 miles from the Iraqi capital.

"Osama bin Laden is a far more difficult leader of al-Qaida to be caught as compared to al-Zarqawi," said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistan army general.

"Firstly, bin Laden is not involved in day-to-day operations, and we believe that he enjoys the support of much more loyal people."

Zarqawi had a $25-million bounty on his head - the same amount offered by the United States for information leading to bin Laden.

Henry Crumpton, the U.S. ambassador in charge of counterterrorism, last month called parts of Pakistan's border region a "safe haven" for militants. He said bin Laden was more likely to be hiding there than in Afghanistan.

More than 20,000 U.S.-led coalition soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan pursuing Taliban and al-Qaida fighters.

[Last modified June 9, 2006, 06:34:01]

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