Sat, Aug 23, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Officials sign up for Hambali bounty

AFP , BANGKOK

Some 400 Thai police and government officials have signed up for a share of the US$4 million bounty offered by the US for the capture of Asia's most wanted man Hambali, a source said yesterday.

"There has been a scramble for the bounty," an official from the National Security Operations Centre said, adding that at least four agencies have claimed credit for the stunning capture.

"So far 400 officers from the immigration department, Office of the Narcotics Control Board, Special Branch police and local police in Ayutthaya have signed up for the money," he said.

After Hambali's arrest in the central city of Ayutthaya on Aug. 11 which was carried out in cooperation with US authorities, Defense Minister Thamarak Issarangkun Na Ayutthaya said Thailand would claim the reward.

But Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra later said the bounty would instead be paid to those people directly involved in nabbing the alleged terrorist mastermind, triggering excitement over the windfall among official circles.

A National Security Council official said the CIA was responsible for paying the bounty, but that Thailand had so far not been contacted over it.

"The NSC will prepare the list of which agencies should share the reward and submit it to the prime minister," he said, adding that he hoped the issue would be resolved by next month.

However, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Bangkok said he had not seen any confirmation that a reward had been offered for Hambali's arrest.

"I have heard it discussed as a possibility, with different amounts mentioned, but I have seen nothing firm or in the public domain about it," he said.

"I believe there are some outstanding offers for assistance that leads to the arrest of wanted terrorists, but I have not been able to find any published offer specifically for the capture of Hambali," he said.

The spokesman said there had been no discussion of a reward for Hambali's capture during the run-up to the arrest when Thai and US security authorities were cooperating closely.

Hambali is now being held in a secret location in US custody. Thailand has said he is being interrogated by Thai authorities as well as representatives of other "allied nations."

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