December 27, 2003


US has to seek its elusive 'most wanted' everywhere (Mohsen Asgari and Mark Huband, December 27 2003, Financial Times)

Earlier this month, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, vowed that he "will be captured some day, just like we captured Saddam Hussein".

But Gen. Myers went on to say that the al-Qaeda leader was likely to be hiding out "where he has some support, where he can buy support, and probably in very difficult terrain".

The common belief is that this terrain lies somewhere on the 1,500-mile frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a wild and lonely place. The terrorist chief and a handful of his followers could be anywhere in the high mountain passes or the tribal lands where neither the writ of Islamabad or Kabul counts for much.

But sporadic and un-confirmed sightings of have also begun to crop up further afield, including in Kashmir, Pakistan's tribal areas and Baluchistan on the border with Iran.

Even if these do not amount to a reliable guide to his whereabouts, they are a tribute to his elusiveness. In one recent account, a man with links to Iran's intelligence services and hard-line Revolutionary Guard Corps (RGC) has told the Financial Times that he saw the al-Qaeda leader in Iran two months ago. He saw him arrive at an RGC guest house close to the small town of Najmabad, west of Tehran, on 23 October.

It's just hard to believe the Iranians could be that foolish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 27, 2003 8:00 AM

It could be one of those "planted" leaks of "intelligence" intended to boost Iranian cooperation.

Posted by: kevin whited at December 27, 2003 10:28 AM

The Iranian people are not that foolish. The ruling mullahs are.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at December 27, 2003 8:31 PM

Personally, I believe that OBL has been dead for two years, but, there DOES seem to be some coherence to the sightings, i.e. in a small area on either side of the Afghanistan border. I've been there, and there is no great structural edifice delineating the border. The Durrand line was constructed by the British Empire, and in no way respects the reality on the ground. The tribe or family which controls the land on one side of the line controls the land on the other.

Understand the religious-historical background as well: Muslims attacked and subjugated these areas over a millenium ago, so OBL represents the bloodline of Mohammad. Thus he enjoys the status of a demigod among some Muslims there, or at least a cult leader, especially among the Pashtuns, who could be expected to protect him - or to conspire to convince others that he is still alive....

Posted by: Michael Gersh at December 28, 2003 5:32 PM