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Expert: OBL capture chance best since 2001

  |   April 28, 2008 at 9:08 PM
WASHINGTON, April 28 (UPI) -- The chances of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden being captured or killed are higher now than at any time since 2001, a top expert said Sunday.

"The circumstances in which he's hiding have changed," author Steve Coll told CNN, adding that bin Laden's popularity in the area on the Pakistan-Afghan border where he is believed to be hiding is at an all-time low.

"Also, you've got a new government in power, so the motivations on the Pakistani side are changing very quickly."

CNN analyst and author Peter Bergen added that the decline in the al-Qaida leader's approval ratings in the North-West Frontier province had been precipitous, from 70 percent in August 2007 to only 4 percent today.

Nonetheless, Bergen added, "The hunt for bin Laden is going very poorly." He noted that the new government was seeking to strike deals with Pakistani extremist leaders in the border area. "So as always, sort of a mixed message here with the Pakistanis," he concluded.

In a newspaper op-ed earlier this month, Coll wrote: "Bin Laden may well understand what many Americans do not, that he's more likely to be killed or captured during the next year or so than at any time since late 2001 when he escaped U.S. war planes bombing him in eastern Afghanistan at Tora Bora."

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