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Bin Laden Hunt Continues 24/7, DoD Leaders Report

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2004 – The manhunt for Osama bin Laden continues "every day, 24 hours a day," the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan told NBC News this week.

Army Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, commander of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, said "a very, very dedicated, highly capable element" is committed to the effort and they're "looking at the intelligence and ready to respond."

This organization, he said, is dedicated to finding not only bin Laden, but also other senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. These include Ayman al- Zawahiri, indicted for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, and now believed to serve as bin Laden's doctor and adviser.

Also on the coalition's "most wanted list" is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who the State Department designated a terrorist earlier this year for his role in both al Qaeda and Taliban activities.

Barno's comments, offered during an Oct. 7 interview focused on the third anniversary of Operation Enduring Freedom and the Afghan national elections Oct. 9, echoed those Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, delivered Oct. 4 to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Rumsfeld noted the contrast between bin Laden's station in life three years ago and now. In 2001, Rumsfeld said, "Osama bin Laden was safe and sheltered in Afghanistan (and his) network was dispersed around the world.

"Three years later, more than two-thirds of al Qaeda's key members and associates have been detained, captured or killed," Rumsfeld continued. Osama bin Laden is on the run. Many of his key associates are behind bars or dead. His financial lines have been reduced, but not closed down.

"And I suspect," the secretary said, "he spends a good deal of every day avoiding being caught."

Barno said he's witnessing "a tremendous amount of cooperation" between coalition and Pakistani military units on both sides of the Afghanistan- Pakistan border.

He said a Pakistani unit responded to a recent coalition request to move toward the border and block the escape of terrorists trying to cross into Pakistan so coalition troops could capture them. "So there's a great deal of cooperation, far higher than we would have seen 12 months ago," he said.

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