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U.S. Offers Cash For Terror Financing Clues

The Bush administration, wanting to energize efforts to financially paralyze terrorists, plans to offer a reward of up to $5 million for information that results in the breakup of networks used to finance terrorists organizations.

The Treasury and State departments are slated to announce the reward Wednesday afternoon, marking the government's latest effort to sever terrorists from their sources of financing, a key component in President Bush's war on terror.

The reward would be offered for "information leading to the dismantling of any system or scheme used to finance a terrorist organization and information leading to the arrest or conviction of those who planned or aided in any act of terrorism against U.S. persons or property,'' according to a Bush administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The bounty would come from a long-standing "Rewards for Justice'' program administered by the State Department, the official said. That program, created by a 1984 law, has paid out more than $9.5 million to 23 people. The government doesn't discuss specifics on who got what for fear of endangering informants.

Last year, the government announced a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Usama bin Laden.

The U.S. is also planning a campaign to increase public awareness about the $5 million reward aimed at stamping out terrorists financiers and wants to work with trade associations representing banks, convenience stores, pawn shops and others to help get the word out, the administration official said.

The government also believes that by offering the reward it may "gain new information and insights into how terrorist financiers are moving money for deadly purposes,'' the administration official said.

After last year's attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States led an effort to cut terrorists off from their sources of financing. While that campaign has yielded substantial results, more work needs to be done, Treasury and State department officials have said.

Roughly $112 million in assets belonging to Al Qaeda and its associates have been frozen worldwide since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Even so, United Nations experts in the summer said Al Qaeda is continuing to receive financial support from bin Laden's personal inheritance and investments, from its own members and supporters, and from charitable organizations.

In October, administration officials told lawmakers that terrorists still have the financial muscle to carry out fresh attacks on the United States.

In tracking the terror money trail, one of the biggest challenges is following money that moves outside the traditional banking system. Those other means include informal money networks that don't leave a paper trail; bulk-cash and cigarette smuggling; trafficking of diamonds, gold and drugs; and donations to charities, administration officials said.