The U.S. military, trudging through caves and blasting through rocks in Afghanistan in search of the elusive Usama bin Laden, might be looking in the wrong place. At least if recent reports to the FBI are any indication.
Callers to the agency have reported seeing the bearded evildoer just about everywhere but central Asia.
"They say they saw him at the 7-Eleven, working at the gas station, at the library — you name it," said New York-based FBI Special Agent Joe Valiquette.
The calls come at a particularly brisk clip after Fox's America's Most Wanted devotes segments to finding the world's most wanted terrorist, the FBI says. Invariably, upon the conclusion of the Saturday night show, a number of viewers answer host John Walsh's pleas by calling in bin Laden sightings in their own neighborhoods.
Utah, perhaps because of its desert climate and reputation for polygamy, is seeing more than its share of bin Laden. The Salt Lake City FBI office says callers have spotted the terrorist driving on the highway, on a pay phone at the 7-Eleven, even grabbing a quick bite at local fast food joints.
"We've had a bunch of people call," says Special Agent Kevin Eaton.
Eaton likened the "crazy" reports to the perennial "the government has placed a chip in my brain and is following me" complaint. He doesn't think the callers are playing pranks, though.
"I think they're just trying to be helpful," he said.
But even as bin Laden seems on his way to upstaging Elvis as America's Most Spotted, Valiquette says there is little or no truth to the claims.
"The chances that he's at a 7-Eleven in Altuna are probably slim," he said.
"Bin Laden is not in Utah — I'm almost positive," he said.