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GlobalSecurity.org In the News

Press Association November 22, 2001


From Hugh Dougherty

American forces were today hunting for Osama bin Laden with hi-tech sensors which can "see" in the dark and pierce 100ft of solid rock. Planes are flying across Afghanistan using thermal-imaging cameras which can home in on objects from 30 miles away, while American special forces equipped with nightsights are patrolling the ground.

And new equipment which detects magnetic fields and vibrations is also being deployed to "see" through rock. The devices have been put in place to try to find the cave complexes in which bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the Afghan mountains, the New York Times reported. As the fierce Afghan winter deepens, the heat-sensing equipment will prove even more useful, as the contrast between warm caves and the cold outside will increase.

A government scientist told the newspaper: "As it gets colder the caves are going to stay warm. "Openings that release that air are going to be seen as a hot spot." Military intelligence will pass the locations on to strike aircraft, which will launch precision weapons against the caves, including so-called bunker-buster bombs which burrow into the ground before exploding.

The most advanced equipment has been mounted on the unmanned "drone" planes in the air over Afghanistan. Some devices can identify the breath of a soldier or the pollution from the exhaust of a tank, while it is also possible to "see" a parked car in total darkness. Ground-penetrating radar is also being used to find underground bunkers and caves which will then be targeted by other intelligence-gathering equipment to discover if al Qaida operatives are hiding inside.

The technology was tested in America, where the air force managed to locate disused mines in New York state from planes flying overhead. Other technology picks up the magnetic fields from lighting systems in the tunnels used by al Qaida, even at 100ft underground.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a group whose website monitors the latest in military technology, told the newspaper: "The popular conception seems to be that bin Laden and his 40 thieves are in the bottom of some cavern and if we can just find the secret cavern, then the war will be over. "But these guys are undoubtedly scattered all over the place - some in town, some up in the hills, some in house, others in tunnels."

Copyright 2001 The Press Association Limited