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Osama most likely hiding in Pak: New scientific study

Osama most likely hiding in Pak: New scientific study

Author: Agencies
Publication: ExpressIndia.com
Date: February 17, 2009
URL: http://www.expressindia.com/latest-news/Osama-most-likely-hiding-in-Pak-New-scientific-study/424691/

The world's most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden could be hiding out in a walled compound in Parachinar, a town along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, according to a unique satellite-aided geographic analysis released on Tuesday.

Basing their conclusion on night-time satellite images and other techniques, a research team led by geographer Thomas Gillespie suggest that the 52-year-old fugitive may well be in one of three compounds in Parachinar, a town 12 miles inside the Pakistan border, 'USA Today' reported.

Gillespie of the University of California-Los Angeles and his team used geographic analytical tools that have been successful in locating urban criminals and endangered species.

The research incorporates public reports of bin Laden's habits and whereabouts since his flight from the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in 2001.

The results, reported in the 'MIT International Review,' are being greeted with polite but skeptical interest among people involved in the global hunt for bin Laden, the al-Qaeda mastermind behind 9/11 attacks on the US, the report said.

Bin Laden's whereabouts are considered 'one of the most important political questions of our time', the study notes.

"I've never really believed the sitting-in-a-cave theory. That's the last place you would want to be bottled up," Gillespie says.

The study's real value, he says, is in combining satellite records of geographic locations, patterns of night-time electricity use and population-detection methods to produce a technique for locating fugitives.

Essentially, the study generates hiding-place location probabilities. It starts with 'distance decay theory', which holds that the odds are greater that the person will be found close to where he or she was last seen, the report said.

Then the researchers add the 'island biographic theory', which maintains that locales with more resources palm trees for tropical birds and electricity for wealthy fugitives are likelier to draw creatures of interest.

"Island biographic theory suggests bin Laden would end up in the biggest and least isolated city of the region," Gillespie says, one among about 26 towns within a 20-mile distance of Tora Bora.

"To really improve the model, you would need to include intelligence data from 2001 to 2006," Gillespie says.

"It has been eight years. Honestly, I think it is time to be more open. This is a very important issue for the public."

The study also makes assumptions that bin Laden might need medical treatment, requiring electricity in an urban setting.

The study also assumes that bin Laden is being protected by a few bodyguards and he might be living in isolation that requires a walled compound.

It also takes into account that his hiding place should have tree cover to shield outdoor activities from aircraft.

"Of course, it all depends on the accuracy of the information on most recent whereabouts," Gillespie says. "I assume that the military has more recent information that would change the hiding place probabilities."

"It's important to think outside the box, and this is an innovative idea worth more pursuit," says geographic-profiling expert Kim Rossmo of Texas State University in San Marcos, who has worked with the military on adapting police procedures for finding criminals to counter-terrorism.

However, the authors are much too certain of their conclusions.

"The idea of identifying three buildings in a city of half a million especially one in a country the authors have likely never visited is somewhat overconfident."

The study grew out of an undergraduate seminar on applying geographic profiling to real-world problems.

"We are all wondering where bin Laden is hiding," Gillespie says, and adds: "We just wanted to offer the techniques we have to help."|

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