Federal prosecutors made it official Wednesday by announcing an indictment against fugitive millionaire bin Laden for the August bombings of two U.S. embassies in east Africa.
On Monday, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban challenged the U.S. to prove by Nov. 20 that bin Laden is a terrorist.
The Taliban's Supreme Court told the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency that if no proof was submitted by the deadline, he would be deemed innocent of all charges of terrorism.
"We will wait until Nov. 20. If anyone has any proof he is involved in terrorism, it should be submitted by then."
The statement also said that if no proof of his alleged involvement in terrorism was received by Nov. 20, "on this basis, we will say he is clear."
Four others, including the military commander of bin Laden's al-Qaeda group, were named in Wednesday's indictment. U.S. officials added a $5 million reward for their capture.
"Osama bin Laden and his military commander Mohamed Atef are charged with plotting and carrying out one of the most heinous acts of international terrorism and murder," said U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White.
Federal investigators admit that they don't expect to get their hands on bin Laden anytime soon. He is surrounded by allies in Afghanistan and is said to be living comfortably off an inheritance estimated at nearly $300 million.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Associate Attorney General Ray Fisher said "We recognize that it's hard to get him when he's hiding out in a country that doesn't cooperate with the U.S."
Bin Laden had been indicted by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Manhattan in June, but the indictment returned Wednesday links him directly to the later bombings.
Bin Laden was quickly named the chief suspect after the Aug. 7 bombing of the embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. That blast and a simultaneous one at the embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and injured more than 5,000.
Wednesday's announcement brings to 10 the total number of people charged in the attacks.
The bombings were allegedly carried out by members of the Al Kada, an international terrorist group funded by bin Laden. Bin Laden began his career in the shadowy world of the Afghan freedom fighters and now is protected by that nation's hardline Muslim leaders.
Among those charged so far is Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, described as a top lieutenant of bin Laden. Salim was charged in September in a criminal complaint in Manhattan with murder, conspiracy, and use of weapons of mass destruction in an international plot to kill U.S. citizens.
Salim and bin Laden allegedly plotted to use a federation of terrorists to "kill nationals of the United States...while such nationals were outside he United States," the complaint said.
An earlier indictment handed up by a Manhattan grand jury charges three men with conspiring with bin Laden to bomb the embassies, kill U.S. soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia and Somalia, house and train terrorists, and raise money to support their cause.
"He [bin Laden] is a net donor of funds to state sponsors. He doesn't rely on state assistance. That's what makes him so hard to catch, capture," says terrorism expert Ken Katzman.
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