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Terrorist activity won't end with bombing convictions



Published: Mon, June 4, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



It would be naive to believe that the convictions of four terrorists involved in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa will stop such cowardly acts by those devoid of morality. Even the death penalty won't serve as a deterrent -- so long as the mastermind of worldwide terrorism is on the loose.

Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire who heads the terrorist group Al Qaeda, has been indicted by a U.S. grand jury on charges of ordering the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Thousands were injured. There's a $5 million reward for his arrest, and the United Nations has imposed sanctions against Afghanistan, which is providing him safe haven. But even though poverty-ridden Afghanistan is on the verge of total economic collapse, the Taliban rulers refuse to hand over the ruthless killer. Bin Laden remains secure in the knowledge that his followers and the Taliban will never turn on him.

That is why the convictions of Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, who face the death penalty, and Mohamed Sadeek Odeh and Wadih El-Hage, who face life in prison, won't dissuade other terrorists from their mindless killings.

Plan of action: The only way to rid the world of this plague is to bring bin Laden to justice. The United States and other nations that have suffered at the hands of the terrorists should develop a plan to bring the Saudi millionaire to justice.

The Bush administration should give serious thought to making a deal with the two convicted terrorists who face the death sentence: Their lives in exchange for the locations of bin Laden's various hiding places and details about the security precautions that are taken to ensure his safety.

If the four convicted terrorists don't have direct knowledge of bin Laden's comings and goings, they certainly know people who do. Given that bin Laden's terrorist group, Al Qaeda, is rife with internal problems, it should not be too difficult for the various intelligence agencies around the world to gather important information about the man who has declared the United States his No. 1 enemy.

Indeed, given Afghanistan's brutal poverty, persistent drought and a population ravaged by war, it is time to tighten the economic noose.

Fundamentalists: The corrupt Taliban rulers, who have made Islamic fundamentalism the rule of law, have shown little regard for the needs of their people. They have destroyed the country's economic infrastructure and have turned their backs on the poor.

It wouldn't take much to push them to the point of rebellion.

While it might seem cold to punish those whose lives are already being destroyed, the ends do justify the means -- in this situation.




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