Drone strikes in Pak, new US strategy for catching Osama after seven frustrating years

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Peshawar, Sept 10 : After miserably failing to catch international fugitive and Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden for nearly seven years, after 9/11 2001, both American and Pakistani officials have reportedly started reviewing their policy and are now shifting their tactics to intensify the use of the unmanned but lethal Predator drone spy planes in the mountains of western Pakistan.

As US President George Bush's term is going to end in another few months, the attacks by unmanned drones have increased. The number of Hellfire missile attacks by Predators in Pakistan has more than tripled, with 11 strikes reported by Pakistani officials this year compared with three in 2007, reported The Washington Post.

The air attacks from unmanned drones are part of a renewed effort to cripple al-Qaeda's central command that began early last year, say US and Pakistani officials involved in the operations.

According to the paper, realizing its failure in capturing Osama after the battle near Tora Bora in Afghanistan in December 2001, US, Pakistani and European officials said they are now concentrating on a shortlist of other al-Qaeda leaders who have been sighted more recently, in hopes that their footprints could lead to bin Laden.

Since January, the reconnaissance drones have killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders with 5 million dollars bounties on their heads.

"In interviews, these officials attributed their failure to find bin Laden to an over-reliance on military force, disruptions posed by the war in Iraq and a pattern of underestimating the enemy. Above all, they said, the search has been handicapped by an inability to develop informants in Pakistan's isolated tribal regions, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding," said the US daily.

Bin Laden, a 51-year-old Saudi, has thwarted the US government's attempts to catch him since 1998, when he signed a fatwa calling for attacks on Americans and ordered the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. Today, seven years after he masterminded the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden is believed to wear disguises routinely and takes extreme care to avoid electronic communications, relying on human couriers to pass messages, the US daily quoted officials as saying.

ANI

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