Manhunting is a term sometimes used for military operations by special operations forces and intelligence organizations to search for, and capture or kill important enemy combatants, known as high-value targets. It has been used particularly in the United States during the War on Terror.
The most visible such operations conducted involve counterterrorist activities. Some involve government-sanctioned targeted killing or extrajudicial execution, and such operations have drawn political and legal controversy. Other military operations, such as hostage rescue or personnel recovery, employ similar tactics and techniques.
The term has been used for some US operations such as Operation Red Dawn, the apprehension of Saddam Hussein, the search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011.
Notable military manhunts
|72-71BC||Third Servile War||Spartacus||Roman Army||12 mnths||Captured > Executed||Unknown, Marcus Crassus (CO)|
|1781||American Revolution||Charles Cornwallis||Continental Army||21 days||Surrendered >Imprisoned||"I have the mortification to inform your Excellency that I have been forced to surrender the troops under my command as prisoners of war to the combined forces of America and France." —Cornwallis||Benjamin Lincoln (CO)|
|1836||Texas Revolultion||Santa Anna||Texian Army||3 days||Captured > Imprisoned||"I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and a prisoner of war at your disposition." —Santa Anna||James Sylvester, Sion Bostick|
|1865||American Civil War||John Wilkes Booth||Union Army||$50,000 (~$2.5M in 2018)||12 days||Killed||"I prefer to come out and fight." —Booth||Boston Corbett,
Edward Doherty (CO)
|1865||American Civil War||Jefferson Davis||Union Army||$100,000 (~$5M in 2018)||31 days||Captured > Imprisoned||Unknown, James Wilson (CO)|
|1885-1886||American Indian Wars||Geronimo||American Army||1 year,
|Surrendered >Imprisoned||"Once I moved about like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all." —Geonimo||Charles Bare Gatewood (CO)|
|1916-1917||Mexican Border War||Pancho Villa||American Army||$100,000 ($1.9M in 2018)||10 mths, 24 days||Failed||John J. Pershing (CO)|
|1941-1943||World War II||Isoroku Yamamoto||American Military||1 year,
4 mths, 11 days
|Killed||"A military man can scarcely pride himself on having 'smitten a sleeping enemy'; it is more a matter of shame, simply, for the one smitten. I would rather you made your appraisal after seeing what the enemy does, since it is certain that, angered and outraged, he will soon launch a determined counterattack." —Yamanoto||Rex Barber,Thomas Lanphier|
|1945-1960||World War II||Adolf Eichmann||Mossad||15 years, 4 days||Captured > Executed||"To sum it all up, I must say that I regret nothing." —Eichmann||Unknown, Peter Malkin (CO)|
|1966-1967||Cold War||Che Guevara||American Military||11 mths,
|Captured > Executed||"Do not shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more to you alive than dead." —Guevara||Unknown, Félix Rodríguez (CO)|
|1989||War on Drugs||Manuel Noriega||American Military||$1M ($2M in 2018)||14 days||Surrendered >Imprisoned||"I am General Noriega and I am surrendering to U.S. forces." —Noriega||Rene De La Cova, Drug Enforcement Administration|
|1993||Somali Civil War||Mohamed Farrah Aidid||American Army||$25,000 ($43,400 in 2018)||1 month, 21 days||Failed||William F. Garrison (CO)|
|1992-1993||War on Drugs||Pablo Escobar||American Army||1 year,
4 mnths, 10 days
|Killed||"I prefer to be in the grave in Colombia than in a jail cell in the United States." —Escobar||Unknown, Hugo Martínez (CO)|
|2001-2011||War on Terror||Osama bin Laden||American Military||$25M ($35.4M in 2018)||9 years, 7 mnths, 21 days||Killed||"For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo" — Robert O'Neill||Robert J. O'Neill, Matt Bissonnette|
|2001-present||War on Terror||Ayman al-Zawahiri||American Military||$25M ($35.4M in 2018)||18 years, 1 month, 16 days||Ongoing|
|2003||War on Terror||Saddam Hussein||American Military||$25M ($34.8M in 2018)||8 mnths, 23 days||Captured > Executed||"I am Saddam Hussein the president of Iraq and I am willing to negotiate." — Saddam Hussein||Steve Russell, James Hickey (CO)|
|2003||War on Terror||Uday Hussein||American Military||$15M ($20.4M in 2018)||4 mnths, 2 days||Killed||"These killers are the enemies of Iraq's people...wherever they operate, they are being hunted, and they will be defeated...Yesterday, the careers of two of the regime's chief henchmen came to an end. Saddam Hussein's sons were responsible for torture, maiming and murder of countless Iraqis." — George W. Bush||Classified (Delta Force soldier)|
|2003||War on Terror||Qusay Hussein||American Military||$15M ($20.4M in 2018)||4 mnths, 2 days||Killed||"These killers are the enemies of Iraq's people...wherever they operate, they are being hunted, and they will be defeated...Yesterday, the careers of two of the regime's chief henchmen came to an end. Saddam Hussein's sons were responsible for torture, maiming and murder of countless Iraqis." — George W. Bush||Delta Force TF 20, 101st Airborne|
|2003-2006||War on Terror||Abu Musab al-Zarqawi||American Military||$25M ($31.1M in 2018)||3 years, 2 mnths, 18 days||Killed||"America has realized today that its tanks, armies and Shia agents will not be able to end the battle with the Mujahideen." — al-Zarqawi||Classified (F-16 pilot)|
|2011-2019||War on Terror||Abu Bakr alBaghdadi||American Military||$10M ($11.3M in 2019)||8 years, 5 mnths, 21 days||Suicide||"He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place." — Donald Trump||Delta Force|
|2016-2018||War on Drugs||El Chapo||American Army||$5M ($5.1M in 2018)||5 mnths, 28 days||Captured >Imprisoned||"You are all going to die." — El Chapo||Classified (Fuerzas Especiales and
Delta Force soldiers)
- Seymour M. Hersh, Moving Targets, New Yorker, December 15, 2003 accessed at  on 13 Feb 2008
- Simone Payment, Finding and Capturing Saddam Hussein: A Successful Military Manhunt, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 1-4042-0280-3
- Chris Cuomo and Eamon McNiff, "The Men in the Shadows – Hunting al-Zarqawi: Task Force 145 Is an Elite Special Ops Unit That Spent Years Tracking al-Zarqawi," ABC News, June 9, 2006
- "DOCUMENT: Cornwallis to Clinton | October 20, 1781". Teaching American History.
- The Library of Historic Characters and Famous Events of All Nations and All Ages. https://books.google.com/books?id=xdZIAQAAIAAJ. 1906. p. 302.
- Johnson, Byron Berkeley (1914). Abraham Lincoln and Boston Corbett. https://books.google.com/books?id=rMhEAAAAIAAJ. p. 34.
- Brown, Dee (2009). Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. https://books.google.com/books?id=JUkoA29CFRsC: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 472.
- 阿川, 弘之 (1979). The Reluctant Admiral: Yamamoto and the Imperial Navy. Kodansha International. p. 285.
- Eichman, Adolf (December 5, 1960). "'To Sum It All Up, I Regret Nothing'". Life Magazine. 49: 158.
- Veciana, Antonio (Apr 18, 2017). Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots against Castro, Kennedy, and Che. https://books.google.com/books?id=kN2LDAAAQBAJ: Skyhorse.
- Runkle, Benjamin (2011). Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts from Geronimo to Bin Laden. https://books.google.com/books?id=JbFLWGHj20cC: St. Martin's Press. p. 128.
- "Agent Who Arrested Noriega Sentenced on Theft Charge". Associated Press. March 25, 1994.
- Green, Peter S. "WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE". Wall Street Journal Custom Studios.
- Schmidle, Nicholas (August 1, 2011). "Getting Bin Laden". The NewYorker.
- McCarty, Rory (December 15, 2003). "'I am Saddam Hussein the president of Iraq and I am willing to negotiate'". The Guardian.
- Bush, George W. (July 23, 2003). "President Bush Discusses Progress in Iraq". George W Bush White House Archives.
- "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in quotes". The Irish Times. June 8, 2006.
- "Transcript of Trump's Remarks on the Death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi". The New York Times. October 27, 2019.
- Ahmed, Azam (January 16, 2016). "How El Chapo Was Finally Captured, Again". The New York Times.