PESHAWAR , Pakistan – Pakistan intelligence agencies, working with U.S. agents, arrested two Middle Eastern men they suspect are operatives of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, officials said Thursday.
Interior Minister Iftikhar Ahmad confirmed the arrests in the northwestern city of Peshawar, but declined to give details about the suspects or say what position they were believed to hold in Usama bin Laden's organization.
Officials said the men were in Pakistani custody and were being interrogated. They were arrested after FBI agents intercepted calls made from a cell phone, the officials said, declining to be identified.
Officials in Peshawar said both suspects came from Middle Eastern countries but spoke fluent Pashto and Dari, the two common languages of southern Afghanistan.
They said the men are suspected of involvement in the assassination of a Pakistani intelligence officer. Sher Nawaz Khan was gunned down a month ago as he rode a motorbike in the border town of Wana, 180 miles south of Peshawar.
Khan was working in an area where Al Qaeda operatives and forces loyal to Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime frequently cross the unmarked border and take shelter with sympathetic tribes in Pakistan's northwest region.
Pakistan has arrested several top-level Al Qaeda operatives in the last 13 months, unlocking many of the secrets of the organization held responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Most of those arrested have been turned over to U.S. authorities.
In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah, once bin Laden's top terror coordinator, was caught in the city of Faisalabad.
Last September, Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected planner of the terrorist attack in the United States, was captured after a gun battle in the southern port of Karachi. A month ago, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was seized in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.
The latest arrest came two weeks ago when Yassir al-Jaziri was captured in the eastern city of Lahore. Al-Jaziri was described as a key subordinate of bin Laden who facilitated communications between Al Qaeda operatives. He was among the top two dozen most-wanted Al Qaeda men.