WASHINGTON – Big-money rewards led to the capture of two of Saddam Hussein’s sons and the man behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and State Department officials said Wednesday that they’re confident $10 million in rewards would lead them to the killers of Buffalo-born diplomat John M. Granville as well.
When a paid informant led them to Qusay and Uday Hussein in Iraq in 2003, “within 18 days, we were able to locate them and bring them to justice,” said Robert A. Hartung, assistant director for threat investigations and analysis at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The sons of the deposed Iraqi dictator were killed by U.S. special forces.
Earlier, thanks to the State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program, authorities got a tip that led them to Ramzi Yousef, perpetrator of the first World Trade Center bombing, who was convicted and sent to prison in 1995.
“It has been a very successful program to bring terrorists to justice,” Hartung said. “We hope in this case it will be the same for us.”
The State Department’s reward program doesn’t always get its man.
Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar have been on the State Department’s bounty list for years, despite an offer of multimillion-dollar rewards. And Jaber A. Elbaneh, who helped the “Lackawanna Six” terror suspects, remains at large despite a $5 million bounty on his head.
Still, Hartung stressed that the program has brought more than 80 suspected terrorists to justice since its inception in 1984, although often it’s one of the government’s hidden successes.
“Most of the time we don’t even comment on when an award has been paid or hasn’t been paid,” Hartung said.
The State Department announced Tuesday that it is offering awards of $5 million apiece for information leading to the capture of Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim, the organizer and first shooter in the attack on Granville, and Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhassan Haj Hamad, the second shooter.
The two men led an ambush where Granville and his driver were killed as they were leaving a New Year’s Eve party in Khartoum, Sudan, on Jan. 1, 2008.
In total, four men who took part in the ambush were sentenced to death by a Sudanese court in connection with the murders, but they escaped in 2010. One of the escapees was quickly recaptured, and the other died in Somalia in 2011, but Hamad and Ibrahim remain at large.
The State Department believes the two fugitives are in Somalia, but “they could be anywhere,” Hartung conceded.
“I can’t discuss the evidence we have concerning either one of these individuals,” he added.
The rewards are being offered years after the men escaped because the State Department has a deliberate process to determine when to set such bounties.
A review committee only recently recommended rewards for information leading to the capture of Granville’s escaped assailants, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed off on that recommendation, Hartung said.
In a conference call with American and African reporters Wednesday, Hartung was joined by Earl W. Gast, assistant administrator for Africa at the U.S. Agency for International Development, where Granville worked.
Gast praised Granville, a Canisius High School graduate and former Peace Corps volunteer, as well as his Sudanese driver, Adbelrahman Abbas Rahama, for their devotion to the agency and the people it serves.
“Shortly after John’s death, a photo was published with him standing around these Sudanese women, all of whom were holding up radios that John worked so hard to get them,” Gast said.
“To John and ultimately those women, those radios were more than tools of information; they were sources of empowerment and the beginnings of peace,” he said.
“That’s just a small portrait of a man who loved his work, and was loved by the people who worked with him,” Gast added.