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Bin Laden May Strike Again

Intelligence officials tell CBS News there are now telltale signs that terrorist Osama bin Laden is once again on the hunt for U.S. interests to strike.

CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart reports bin Laden scouts have resumed probing the defenses of American facilities and hangouts in the Middle East for possible bomb attacks, operating from Afghanistan hideaways where they enjoy the protection of ruling Taliban militia leaders.

And, as part of his effort to chase all foreigners from Islamic territory, bin Laden has recently dispatched troops to Chechnya to battle the Russians—a move that prompted Moscow last week to warn of reprisal attacks.

"Most of the action against the Russians is native indigenous Chechen rebel leaders, but there is a faction that is linked to the Taliban and bin Laden that is fighting the Russians as well," said Kenneth Katzman, an analyst who reports on terrorism for Congress.

Agents say bin Laden now actively fighting on the side of dominant Taliban leaders in a civil war, perhaps as a way of cementing his relations with the elders, many of whom find him a nuisance.

For the first time, there is also evidence that Afghanistan's heroin producing poppy fields are funding bin Laden’s organization, Al-Qaeda, as well as the Taliban.

"There are increasing reports out of the region that, indeed, he is replenishing his coffers with drug money and helping move drugs across Afghanistan," said Katzman.

A high-level State Department delegation is following up on President Clinton's visit to Pakistan, leaning on the military rulers to get at bin Laden.

As for the man himself, intelligence sources say he moves frequently over southeastern Afghanistan—a modern day nomad who travels with his family and bodyguards in a caravan of sports utility vehicles.

Agents say the terrorist leader communicates by courier, having discarded his cellular phones after U.S. intelligence agents traced phone signals to call in an air strike on bin Laden. The August 1998 attack failed.

Mr. Clinton earlier this month linked Bin Laden to a plot to bomb Americans last New Year's Eve. The plot was foiled when agents seized an Algerian on the Canada-Washington state border attempting to enter the United States in a rental car filled with bomb-making materials and timing devices.

In December 1999, Turkish police arrested six Libyans suspected on being bin Laden supporters allegedly planning to attack the U.S. embassy in Ankara, and authorities in Jordan arrested members of a cell linked to Bin Laden who, the State Department said, "were planning terrorist operations against Western tourists visiting holy sites in Jordan over the millennium holiday."

Bin Laden, 43, is suspected of masterminding the deadly 1998 bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya —which killed 224 people, icluding 12 Americans. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in November 1998 for those murders.

He is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives." The U.S. State Department’ Diplomatic Security Service has offered a reward of $5 million for his capture, the largest prize the U.S. has ever offered for a fugitive.

Late last winter, a Hong Kong magazine reported bin Laden was dying of kidney disease.

Sources say there is evidence that U.N. and U.S. sanctions against the Taliban have essentially destroyed the Afghan banking system.