Religious crusader who devoted his life to tracking down Bin Laden

Man found searching for al-Qa'ida leader was devout Christian on seventh trip to Pakistan
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The Independent Online

In the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, Gary Faulkner, like many other Americans, became obsessed with the idea of capturing and killing Osama bin Laden. What made Mr Faulkner different from many of his fellow countrymen, angry and confused after the death of 3,000 people, was that he was prepared to try to do the job himself.

On six previous occasions, the 50-year-old had travelled to Pakistan in pursuit of the man on whose head stands a $25m (£17m) reward. Every time he would prepare for his mission by hiking in the Colorado forests close to where he lived, working out in the gym and growing a long beard. A devout Christian, he always carried his Bible with him.

This week, all of the construction worker's detailed planning came undone after he was detained on what was his seventh trip to the country by the Pakistani authorities. He was detained in a remote forest close to the border with Afghanistan, carrying a pistol, a metre-long sword and night vision equipment. Having checked into a hotel in the town of Bumburate, in the Chitral region on 3 June, a search was launched after he left the hotel without informing the guard that had been assigned to him by the authorities, a precaution that is standard practice for foreigners visiting remote parts of Pakistan. Officials said he was seeking to cross into Afghanistan's Nooristan region, when they found him.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad said last night that diplomats were still waiting to get consular access to Mr Faulkner, who speaks just a smattering of Urdu. Meanwhile, it was reported that security officials had questioned him and arranged for him to be seen by a doctor, following concerns raised by his family about his poor health. With no small irony, Mr Faulkner apparently suffers from failing kidneys and requires regular dialysis, as is said to be the case with the man he was hunting. According to his family, his kidneys only function at nine per cent of normal capacity and aware of his declining condition he had been determined to make this trip to Pakistan, aware that this could be his "last hurrah".

While many in Pakistan and elsewhere may consider Mr Faulkner's man-hunting expedition as an eccentric endeavour, his family have insisted his actions are those of a sane man. Some reports in the US media have labelled him, unkindly, "the American Ninja".

"My brother is not crazy," the would-be bounty hunter's brother, Scott Faulkner, told CNN. "He is highly intelligent and loves his country and has not forgotten what Osama has done to this country." Mr Faulkner, a doctor, who had dropped his brother off at Denver's international airport on 30 May, added: "When 9/11 happened, as a Christian we took that very personally, as did most of the country. It really messed up the psyche of America, and Osama had made some references to our God, the God of the Bible, in a poor light.

"And the fact that he was taunting America and getting away with killing thousands of Americans, my brother took that very personally. He's like a bulldog and when he got this idea to go after Osama he's not going to let it go. If he has a quest, a vision, a passion, then I encourage that. Is it my passion? Absolutely not, but this is his."

The Pakistani authorities have made clear that Mr Faulkner has not yet been charged with any crime. Police said he was carrying a small amount of cannabis with him when he was detained, though apparently enough for just one joint.

The whereabouts of his quarry, Osama bin Laden, have not been known with any precision since December 2001 when the al-Qa'ida leader was able to slip away from a determined assault by US special forces at the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan and cross into Pakistan. In the subsequent years, various suggestions as to his location have placed him in different parts of Pakistan's tribal areas. Several years ago, some suggested he may have been hiding in the Chitral area, where Mr Faulkner was detained.

Senior police official Mumtaz Ahmad Khan told reporters that officers had initially laughed when the burly American told them he was planning to kill Osama bin Laden.

They grew suspicious, however, when they found the weapons he was carrying with him. Mr Khan said that when Mr Faulkner was asked why he thought he would succeed in his mission while the CIA and various other intelligence agencies had failed, he replied: "God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him."