Wed, Jan 26, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Osama bin Laden reward may increase to US$50m

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US State Department on Monday said that no decision had been made on doubling a US$25 million bounty for terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, but it left open the possibility.

Time magazine reported that the administration of US President George W. Bush was likely to raise the bounty on al-Qaeda's chief to US$50 million by the end of next month.

US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said legislation enacted late last year allowed a hike in the bounty, but added, "There is no decision made at this time whether to do it."

However, he did not rule out an eventual increase in the price tag for information helping US officials nab the Saudi-born militant blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"Obviously, as is always the case in the Rewards for Justice program, the amount of the reward is something that we keep under regular and consistent review to assess whether it's appropriate, whether it needs adjusting or not."

The Bush administration has been hunting al-Qaeda's chief since the attacks on New York and Washington, with US troops scouring Afghanistan's mountainous border with Pakistan where he is believed to be hiding.

Ereli confirmed the US had launched a campaign in Pakistan earlier this month to advertise bounties for bin Laden, his former Afghan host Mullah Omar and other wanted men.

He said an advertisement run on Jan. 7 in an Urdu-language Pakistani newspaper will be followed with other ads, as well as radio and TV spots in the coming weeks.

Ereli denied that the Rewards for Justice program was not working, saying it had contributed to "a number of important captures" and kept the main players on the run, crimping their ability to operate.

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