ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities arrested and turned over to American custody a Yemeni microbiology student wanted in connection with the bombing of the USS Cole, Pakistani officials confirmed Sunday.
Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, 27, is suspected of being an active member of the Al Qaeda network run by Usama bin Laden, the alleged organizer of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, according to government officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Mohammed was secretly turned over to U.S. authorities — bypassing normal extradition and deportation proceedings — as part of a broad investigation of Arab students suspected of having ties to al Qaeda, the Washington Post said Sunday in an account of the handover.
U.S. officials in Pakistan declined comment, as did a senior FBI official in Washington, the newspaper said.
Pakistani officials told the AP the handover had taken place Thursday at the airport in the Pakistani port city of Karachi. Airport authorities, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the plane arrived from Amman, Jordan.
Mohammad, who arrived in Pakistan in 1993, was a student in the microbiology department of Karachi University, classmates and university officials said. A classmate, who declined to be named, said he had abandoned his studies.
An official at the university, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Mohammad's school records were examined last week by the authorities.
A Pakistani presidential spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Quereshi, denied any knowledge of the handover. However, he said that "recently some U.S. security officials had visited Pakistan to share information about some Arab suspects."
"We helped them in finding clues to combat terrorism," he added.
Officials at Pakistan's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, confirmed Sunday that Mohammed had been turned over to U.S. officials.
Mohammed is the first person known to have been arrested outside Yemen for the October 2000 attack on the Cole as it refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 injured when suicide bombers brought a boat alongside the warship and detonated explosives.
Eight suspects were arrested in Yemen and are awaiting trial.