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USNWR: US Downgrades al-Masri Bounty
Reward Offer Quietly Dropped from $5 Mil to $100K in February
05/13/2008 4:36 PM ET
Undated picture released by the US Army in June 2006, showing Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Mohajer.
Photo via Getty Images
Undated picture released by the US Army in June 2006, showing Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Mohajer.

The bounty for the reputed leader of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been quietly downgraded many-fold by US officials. The reward offer for the man who once was among the top wanted men in Iraq by US forces has been downgraded from a high of $5 million to a current low of $100,000, according to US News and World Report.

USNWR writes that the al-Masri bounty was quietly dropped in February by the State Department's Rewards for Justice program, which offers bounties for wanted terrorists.

Key paragraphs in the USNWR story deal with why American officials may have reduced the reward for the Egyptian extremist:

Officially, defense sources say that rewards have historically been reduced for a number of reasons. "When they have reduced rewards in the past, some of the discussion has been to devalue them , to not hold them in such high regard," says a senior defense official. It's psychological warfare of sorts: "It may cause them to do things that say, 'Look, I'm important,'" says the official—and in so doing, perhaps do something that makes it easier for them to be captured. The reasons in the past have also been more pedestrian, adds the official. "Sometimes the rewards are set so high that for some people maybe $100,000 is more tangible than $1 million."

Others insist that the move reflects a shift in thinking about the importance of al-Masri. "The overarching reason is his blatant ineffectiveness as a leader of AQI," says a U.S. military official.

Particularly striking, however, given the heavy emphasis that the U.S. government has placed on the target, is the number of senior officials who were only vaguely aware of the reduction in the bounty on al-Masri. "I had heard that they were talking about doing that," says a senior U.S. military official in Baghdad. "I would think that we have some input on that." The move also leaves questions about why Pentagon officials would want to remove al-Masri from the Rewards for Justice site, which has higher visibility on the Web than the Pentagon's program.

Last week, Iraqi officials claimed to have captured Abu Ayyub al-Masri in the northern city of Mosul, said by US and Iraqi forces to be the "last urban stronghold" of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization. However, US forces later dismissed the Iraqi claim of apprehending the AQI leader.

Read the whole story here.

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