Nearly six months after he disappeared, the man suspected of blowing up an Alabama abortion clinic and wanted for questioning in three other blasts has given federal agents their best lead yet.

Eric Robert Rudolph, 31, stole a man's pickup truck and a six-month supply of food last week before dumping the truck and vanishing into the thick foliage of the North Carolina mountains, authorities said Tuesday.It was a huge break in the case, considering that agents have spent weeks searching the same rugged terrain amid false sightings at least as far away as Denver. It also supported their contention that Rudolph had not fled far from the forests and mountains of his home.

The manhunt for one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted suspects was immediately beefed up with extra officers and bloodhounds around this community in far western North Carolina, not far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"We've said all along Eric Rudolph was still in the area," said Woody Enderson of the Southeast Bomb Task Force. "We said he's alive and alone, and we still believe that. . . . We know he's in the area."

Rudolph was seen last Thursday by a man who authorities say was robbed of the food and a 1977 blue Datsun pickup. He disappeared after ditching the truck at a campground that leads into the 5,000-foot mountains honeycombed with caves.