KHARTOUM, Sudan - The Sudanese government has doubled its bounty for the country's most wanted Darfur rebel leader whose troops staged a daring raid on the outskirts of the capital, state television reported Tuesday.
The new reward of up to 500 million Sudanese pounds, or $246 million, for Khalil Ibrahim, who heads Darfur's powerful Justice and Equality Movement, about ten times the amount the U.S. has offered for its most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.
Money would go to whomever helps contribute to the capture of Ibrahim, who has been on the run since Saturday's attack on Khartoum, the report said.
Ibrahim's followers reached the outskirts of Khartoum on Saturday, after racing across the vast arid terrain of central Sudan with little obstruction to make it to the capital's doorstep.
The attack shocked the government, which is now conducting a full scale manhunt for Ibrahim and cracking down on other opposition figures.
State TV said Ibrahim appears to be in a deserted area in northwest Darfur. Sudanese security intercepted a message exchange between Ibrahim a Chadian authorities in which he allegedly asks Chad to send him a getaway helicopter, it reported.
The TV report gave no further details about the bounty. Sudan has benefited from spike in oil prices, but it's unclear where authorities will get the money for the reward.
On Sunday, the state TV for the first time broadcast a photo of the JEM leader, asking citizens to call a special hotline if they saw Ibrahim.
Ibrahim told The Associated Press Monday that he vowed to keep up his offensive against the Sudanese government, saying he can exhaust the military by fighting it all across Africa's largest nation. Ibrahim said he was speaking while on the run in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, and that he was allegedly "not safe" but still with his troops.
It was the closest that Darfur's rebels have ever gotten to the seat of the government. Ibrahim's movement has emerged as the most effective rebel group in Darfur, where ethnic Africans took up arms against the Arab-dominated government in 2003 to fight discrimination. More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced in the five years of fighting.
Unlike other Darfur rebel movements, JEM succeeded in expanding its operations out of the wartorn region into the central province of Kordofan, next to the capital.
Ibrahim's close family ties with the powerful Chad-based Zaghwa tribe has bolstered his ranks and military capabilities, especially as relations have declined between Sudan and its western neighbor.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has accused Chad of being behind the weekend attack and warned that his government reserved the right to retaliate.
Chad's government, meanwhile, announced late Monday that its border with Sudan was closed. The 600-mile border runs through some of the most inhospitable and remote countryside in the world and armed groups have long passed across it with impunity.