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MORNINGS WITH PAULA ZAHN

U.S. Offers Money For Information and Bounty Hunters in Bin Laden Manhunt

Aired November 20, 2001 - 08:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The Pentagon, of course, is hoping the reward offer will help cut off Osama bin Laden's options for escape as U.S. troops close in on him. But at this moment, just what are his options?

For a look at that, and the latest on the campaign in Afghanistan, let's go to CNN's Jonathan Aiken, who is standing by at the Pentagon -- good morning, Jonathan.

JONATHAN AIKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Paula.

As for Osama bin Laden and his options, they appear to be somewhat limited and focused primarily on the natural advantages that exist in the mountainous terrain that he is thought to be in, in the region east of Kandahar.

Well, the U.S. military hoping to shrink those options even further on the ground through action in the air. Leaflets and radio broadcasts all over Afghanistan now making details -- offering details of that $25 million reward for information leading to bin Laden, a reward that has been on offer for sometime by the United States, but being detailed now in Afghan language broadcasts or from Commander Solo (ph) EC-130 aircraft that fly over the country, and also leaflets being dropped over wide portions of the area.

And there's also an activity that goes on on the ground too. There are reports that Special Forces Operations, within southern Afghanistan in particular, are using cash, primarily to attract bounty hunters, to recruit fighters and also buy information about bin Laden. The idea being that the U.S. would much prefer to have the locals do the cave-to-cave searches for bin Laden, which would minimize the risk to U.S. troops and also minimize the number of U.S. forces necessary to be on the ground in that part of the country.

Now, there are some who have criticized this offer. They say it rubs against one of tenants of Islam, and that is charity. That you shouldn't turn away an invited guest, and to many people in southern Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden is the invited guest of the Taliban government. But overall, CNN's Jim Clancy was pointing out earlier this morning, some of the locals at his position, at the Pakistan- Afghanistan border, said they'd be interested in a reward. The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, says that's the general idea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We have large rewards out. And our hope is that the incentive -- the dual incentive of helping to free that country from a very repressive regime, and to get the foreigners and the al Qaeda out of there, coupled with substantial monetary rewards, will incentivize through the great principle of the University of Chicago economics, incentivize a large number of people to begin crawling through those tunnels and caves, looking for the bad folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AIKEN: And that's spoken like someone who's from Chicago. As for what's happening on day 45 of the U.S. activity over Afghanistan, Paula, relatively light activity to speak of. The problems started a little later than usual on Tuesday. There was a report about four hours ago of some heavy B-52 activity in eastern Konduz Province. But generally light by comparison to days past, and also the weather, Paula, becoming a factor. Rain has moved in, heavy cloud cover, fog and also some fierce winds out of the east, making things difficult, not only for people in the air, but also on the ground -- Paula.

ZAHN: Come back to, if you would, the specific mission of these Special Ops. The defense secretary made it clear that they will not be involved in a cave-by-cave hunt, right?

AIKEN: That's right. They fear that -- that fear that, frankly, it would take too many men and take too long and put U.S. troops at far greater risk than they need to be in order to search for bin Laden. They feel that the bounty hunters will have an incentive with this reward, and also their natural advantage over U.S. troops. The fact that they're locals, they know the terrain. They also know, not only the entrance points to these caves, but also more importantly, the exit points, where these caves come out to, and what other caves and tunnels they may link up with. Information the U.S. just doesn't have right now, so that's where they're figuring they're going to attach (ph) their lot with the locals and hope for the best.

ZAHN: All right, Jonathan Aiken, thanks -- appreciate that report.

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