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U.S.: Bush Wants Suspected Terrorist Mastermind 'Dead Or Alive'

U.S. President George W. Bush says the war against international terrorism will be long and costly. But in the end, Bush says, America will prevail. The president says freedom will be defended whatever the cost.

Washington, 18 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- President George W. Bush evoked images of America's frontier justice by saying he wants "dead or alive" the suspected mastermind of the 11 September terrorist attack on New York and Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said "all roads" lead to Osama bin Laden and his shadowy terror network.

Talking to reporters in Washington yesterday, Bush spoke about the massive U.S. law enforcement investigation into the deadly assault and steps being taken to avert future attacks.

More than 5,000 people are feared dead after two hijacked commercial airliners crashed into twin New York skyscrapers and a third hit the Pentagon in Washington. A fourth commandeered aircraft crashed in western Pennsylvania, unable to reach its intended target.

Bush said:

"Osama bin Laden is a prime suspect and the people who house him, encourage him, provide food, comfort or money, are on notice."

Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan, a country torn by two decades of war and civil conflict and now largely under the control of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban movement. The Saudi-born millionaire already faces criminal indictment in the U.S. for an earlier terrorist incident.

Again, President Bush:

"I want justice. And there is an old poster out West. As I recall it said: 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"

America's Western frontier during the 19th Century was largely underdeveloped and often lawless. Frontier justice in those days -- as Americans fought outlaws -- tended to be swift, expedient and decisive.

Bush said the United States will win the war on international terrorism but added it will be a costly battle. Bush said he was confident that the armed forces were prepared to "defend freedom at any cost."

The U.S. Defense Department was readying call-up orders for 35,000 reservists. The U.S. continued its consultations with key countries in Asia and elsewhere, including Pakistan, a country that borders on Afghanistan.

Bush said such a mobilization is a strong symbol of America's resolve.

"They will serve in a number of essential roles. They will help maintain air defenses so they can stay on high alert. They will check shipping in ports. They will help our military with airlift and logistics. They will provide military police. They will participate in engineering projects. They will help gather intelligence and they will perform work as chaplains."

In another development, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said he would seek authority from Congress to make it easier to track down suspected terrorists who may be hiding in the United States.

Ashcroft, America's top law enforcement official, said Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents need wider authority to wiretap suspects. Wiretapping includes putting listening devices in homes and hotel rooms, bugging telephones, and reading e-mails and other communications.

Ashcroft said he wants the courts to streamline wiretap authorization.

The attorney general said associates of the men who hijacked commercial planes in the United States on 11 September may still be in the country. The FBI has detained 49 people in the course of the investigation.

The U.S. Congress already has approved $40 billion to fund recovery efforts and as a down payment on what Bush called the first war of the 21st Century.

Bush said:

"Our mission is not just Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda [the global network headed by bin Laden] organization. Our mission is to battle terrorism and to join with freedom-loving people. We are putting together a coalition that is -- a coalition dedicated to declaring to the world, we will do what it takes to find the terrorists, to rout them out and to hold them accountable."

Al Qaeda is a loose global network of radical Muslims joined in common hatred of the United States, Israel, and moderate Muslim governments.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Secretary of State Powell urged the Taliban to eject bin Laden.

"It is becoming clear with each passing hour, with each passing day that it is the al Qaeda network that is the prime suspect, as the president had said, and all roads lead to the leader of that organization, Osama bin Laden, and his location in Afghanistan."

Powell said the U.S. was doing all it can to protect itself. Powell urged Americans at home and abroad to be vigilant and alert to the threats he said still exist.