US, Pakistan Shift Approach in Bin Laden Hunt

(VOA) An American newspaper says U.S. and Pakistani officials are shifting tactics in their search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, intensifying the use of unmanned, but lethal, spy planes in western Pakistan.

The Washington Post Wednesday quotes the officials as saying the number of missile attacks by pilotless Predator drones in Pakistan has more than tripled in the past year. They say Pakistani officials reported 11 such strikes this year, compared to three strikes in 2007.

The Post says officials involved in the operations call the attacks part of a renewed effort to cripple al-Qaida’s central command. They say officials are targeting top al-Qaida members in the hope that they could lead authorities to bin Laden.

The Bush administration did not immediately comment on the report. But White House spokeswoman Dana Perino Wednesday said President Bush has not given up on efforts to track down bin Laden and his followers.

U.S. officials have said they suspect bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders are hiding in Pakistan’s tribal regions along the Afghan border.

The United States has used drones to target militants along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan in the past.

Since late August there have been at least five suspected U.S. missile strikes against militant targets in Pakistan’s North and South Waziristan regions. Afghan, U.S. and NATO officials say the regions act as Taliban and al-Qaida sanctuaries.

The Post says U.S. officials attribute their failure to find bin Laden mostly to an inability to develop intelligence informants in Pakistan’s tribal regions.