The State Department has revised downward its award for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a Jordanian operative described by the CIA as a close associate of Osama bin Laden.
Earlier this week, its Web site had offered a $25 million reward for Abu Musab Zarqawi, thought to be running some operations in Iraq and who may have been inside the country in the last few months.
At $25 million, Zarqawi joined Bin Laden, the al Qaeda founder and leader; Al-Adel, one of its top operatives; and Ayman Al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's chief lieutenant. Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is also listed at $25 million.
Twenty-two other people are on the rewards program list, but $5 million will be paid out in their cases.
On Wednesday, State's Rewards for Justice program had offered the higher amount, saying he had "a long-standing connection to senior al Qaeda leadership." The posting, coincidentally on his birthday, was corrected later in the day.
The department claims Zarqawi "appears to be highly regarded among al Qaeda and a close associate of Osama Bin Laden and Saif Al-Adel."
A Jordanian, Zarqawi turned 37 on Thursday. His State Department wanted poster describes him as having an olive complexion, dark hair and eyes and a Jordanian passport. He uses the alias Ahmad Fadil Al-Khalailah.
"Individuals providing information may be eligible for a reward, protection of their identities, and relocation with their families," the department notes. In the past seven years, the Rewards for Justice program has paid out more than $49 million in 29 cases.
U.S. officials have accused Zarqawi of trying to train terrorists in the use of poison for possible attacks in Europe, running a terrorist haven in northern Iraq an area outside Saddam's control before the war and organizing an attack that killed an American aid executive in Jordan last year.
President Bush cited him to back up his claim of al Qaeda ties to Saddam Hussein, claiming the operative was in Baghdad last year.
More recently, U.S. officials have said intelligence suggests that Zarqawi is one of several high-ranking al Qaeda figures hiding In Iran, or in Iraq coordinating attacks against U.S. troops. In April, an operative linked to Zarqawi was arrested in Iraq.
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