Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Geographers Urge US To Search 3 Structures for Bin Ladin

Located in northwest Pakistan, Parachinar is 12 miles from Tora Bora, the last
confirmed location of Osama bin Laden.
(Credit: Image courtesy of University of California - Los Angeles)

While U.S. intelligence officials have spent more than seven years searching fruitlessly for Osama bin Laden, UCLA geographers say they have a good idea of where the terrorist leader was at the end of 2001 — and perhaps where he has been in the years since.

In a new study published online February 17 by the MIT International Review, the geographers report that simple facts, publicly available satellite imagery and fundamental principles of geography place the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks against the U.S. in one of three buildings in the northwest Pakistan town of Parachinar, in the Kurram tribal region near the border with Afghanistan.

"If he's still alive, he honestly could be sitting there right now," said Thomas W. Gillespie, the study's lead author and an associate professor of geography at UCLA. "It is still the safest tribal area and city in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwest Pakistan and one of the only tribal areas that the U.S. has not bombed with its unmanned Predators."

Despite keen interest in the terrorist recluse and a $25 million reward for information leading to his capture, academics have shied away from getting involved in the quest to find him, the researchers contend. Meanwhile, dramatic improvements in remote-sensing imagery have improved the odds of civilians doing so.

"We believe our work represents the first scientific approach to establishing bin Laden's current location," said John A. Agnew, study co-author and UCLA geography professor. "The methods are repeatable and could easily be updated with new information obtained by the U.S. intelligence community."

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