Turn to kidnapping showed bin Laden's interest

By STEPHEN BRAUN | June 19, 2011 | 5:13 AM EDT

FILE - In this April 8, 2009, file photo John Solecki, American UN official, talks to the media outside his parents' home in South Orange, N.J. four days after he was found with his hands and feet bound along a dirt road near the Afghan border of Pakistan. Solecki was ambushed and kidnapped in Pakistan on Feb. 2, and his driver killed. Figures from the National Counterterrorism Center show kidnappings soared in Pakistan between 2008 and 2009, rising from 1,264 to 3,366 hostages taken. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scrutiny of al-Qaida's financing has increased and strikes have taken aim at its money men. So al-Qaida's core organization in Pakistan has turned to kidnapping for ransom to offset dwindling cash reserves.

That's according to U.S. officials and information in files retrieved from Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan after he was killed last month by U.S. Navy SEALs.

Bin Laden's interest in kidnapping as a money-raiser bolsters accounts that a financial squeeze has staggered al-Qaida and forced it to search for alternative funding sources.

Officials would not detail al-Qaida's role in specific crimes, but the group's affiliates have targeted diplomats, tourists and merchants.