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Report: CIA Closes Unit Hunting Osama

The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, The New York Times reported in its Tuesday edition.

The unit, known as Alec Station, was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned within the CIA Counterterrorist Center, the paper reported officials said.

Intelligence officials said the realignment reflects a view that al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, as well as a growing concern about al Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Agency officials said that tracking bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened.

Instead, it reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals, the Times reported.

"This is an agile agency, and the decision was made to ensure greater reach and focus," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck told the paper.

The decision to close the unit was first reported by National Public Radio, The Times said.

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