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Personal Protection for Al Qaeda Boss

Osama Bin Laden hires US private security firm

Terrorist leader turns to American mercenary organization for protection

LethalResponse IncAccording to unnamed sources, Osama Bin Laden has signed a deal with US-based LethalResponse Inc to provide personal protection services, secure transportation and "ad hoc operational capability".

One Syrian-based source said: "We believe he looked at using Blackwater at first, but wasn't impressed by the negative publicity they seem to be getting. Image is important for a terrorist leader and he thought any association with Blackwater might tarnish his reputation."

It's thought that Bin Laden has taken this step because of the increasing lawlessness and violence in some areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. "In Bora Bora and the desolate border areas, not even the Al Qaeda top brass feel safe anymore," said one local tribesman. "It's like the Wild West out here."

Little is known about LethalResponse. Defense experts have claimed that it maintains links with members of the current US cabinet, some of whom may be silent board members. And they say it recruits mercenaries from ex-members of the US Marine Corps, LAPD, university campus guards and visitors to gun shows.

Some members of Congress have already raised concerns about this new deal. Like Blackwater and many other private security companies, LethalResponse has a number of contracts in Iraq. For example, it is responsible for protecting convoys delivering the large amounts of cash needed to pay private security contractors. "They don't call them soldiers of fortune for nothing," said Senator Ignatius 'Piggy' Barrell (Republican).

He added: "This does suggest a certain conflict of interest. However, I think we can leave this to market forces. It's not our place to intervene in what are essentially matters of private enterprise."