U.S. puts $5M bounty on al-Masri
From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott
ABU AYYUB AL-MASRI
Source: U.S. military
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice authorized up to a $5 million reward Friday for information leading to the capture of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, believed to be the replacement for the late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
"Al-Masri, an Egyptian national, is a senior al Qaeda leader in Iraq and was a direct associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," said Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli in a statement.
"Trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, al-Masri is an explosives expert specializing in" constructing car bombs.
The U.S. military believes al-Masri has taken over the terror network from al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike June 7 north of Baghdad. He had masterminded hundreds of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.
The department's statement urges anyone with information on al-Masri's location to contact the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad or any other U.S. embassy or consulate, or any U.S. military commander.
In an audio message published Thursday, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden grieved for al-Zarqawi and called him one of al Qaeda's "greatest knights." However, bin Laden did not say that al-Masri would assume al-Zarqawi's position.
The reward for al-Masri is being offered under the State Department's Rewards for Justice program, which seeks to prevent acts of terrorism against the United States. The money is paid for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of terrorists trying to commit or committing acts against U.S. interests.
There is a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of bin Laden. Congress passed legislation in November that allows the department to double that amount, although that hasn't happened.
In 2003, the Bush administration paid a $30 million reward -- $15 million each -- for the tip that led to the capture of Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam Hussein's sons.
An informant provided information that led U.S. troops to the home in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul where the two were hiding. They died in a firefight with American forces.
Before his death, the State Department had a $25 million bounty on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
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