Two Al Qaeda Bigs Among Many Caught in Pakistan

Published August 03, 2004

| Associated Press

Pakistani authorities have arrested several suspected Al Qaeda (search) militants, including two high-ranked terrorists sought by the United States, officials said Tuesday.

Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat told Pakistan's Geo television that authorities had nabbed two "high-level Al Qaeda terrorists" who have U.S. bounties on their heads. He said the men were arrested in Punjab province in the past two days but did not identify them.

A high-ranking intelligence official told The Associated Press that three Al Qaeda suspects — two Pakistanis and a foreigner — were arrested on a road near Lahore, and five grenades and two AK-47 (search) rifles were found in the sports utility vehicle they were driving.

The official also said that a policeman, Raja Waqar, assigned to the office of Punjab province's top politician was arrested for allegedly giving Al Qaeda linked groups information on the whereabouts of top government officials.

It was not immediately clear if any of those suspects included the two wanted by the United States, or how many people had been arrested in the past few days.

Some of the suspects detained are believed to be linked to others in custody who provided intelligence leading to the arrest of a key fugitive and Washington's issuing a terror attack warning, officials said.

Another detainee identified himself as Juma Ibrahim, a Syrian. He was arrested Sunday at a bus station in Hafizabad, a town near Lahore, and was turned over to Pakistan's spy agency, said district police chief Aslam Ghauri.

A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a third man was arrested trying to board a plane in Lahore with questionable documents. He gave no further details.

It was not clear how significant the latest detainees were, but the official said they were believed to be linked to other Al Qaeda suspects in custody, including a computer expert identified as Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan (search ) who was arrested July 13.

Information provided by Khan led to the arrest in eastern Gujrat on July 25 of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (search ), a Tanzanian Al Qaeda suspect wanted in the United States for the 1998 twin East Africa embassy bombings, said an intelligence official in Lahore who was involved in the raid on Ghailani.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Monday that Ghailani's computers contained e-mails with instructions for attacks in the United States and Britain.

Intelligence gained from Khan's and other arrests was a major factor in U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's decision to issue a warning Sunday about a possible Al Qaeda attack on prominent financial institutions in New York, Washington and Newark, N.J.

Pakistani officials are also pointing to the arrest in June of Masrab Arochi — nephew of former Al Qaeda No. 3 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (search ) — as providing useful intelligence. Arochi was among 10 suspects arrested in raids in the southern port city of Karachi.

An intelligence official in the capital, Islamabad, said Arochi led police to a network of Al Qaeda operatives and that several as-yet-undisclosed arrests have been made. He would not confirm any direct link between Arochi and the arrest of Khan, the computer expert, but said Arochi has been made available to U.S. intelligence agents.

Pakistan has vowed not to turn him over to the United States.

Meanwhile, details emerged about the hunt that led authorities to Ghailani, the suspect in the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people — including 12 Americans.

Ghailani arrived in Pakistan on a Kenyan Airlines flight to Karachi on Aug. 6, 1998, a day before the attacks. He was a ghost until his arrest nearly six years later, apparently as he planned to flee the country.

A senior intelligence official told The Associated Press that Ghailani spent some time in the tribal area of South Waziristan (search ) before traveling in recent weeks to Gujrat. Al Qaeda "facilitators" arranged for him to hide in several local houses in the tribal area and stay out of sight, said the official, who asked that his name not be used.

Officials also believe Ghailani was in hiding for a while in the southern port city of Karachi, home to a number of local extremist groups as well as Al Qaeda, and in Lahore.

"We were searching for him for a while and we were several days behind him in different cities, until the moment was right and we caught him," the senior Pakistani government official said.

Raja Munawar Hussain, the police chief in Gujrat, told AP that a front man who leased a car and opened a bank account for Ghailani also was arrested.

The police chief also said that during the 12-long shootout that led to Ghailani's arrest, he received several threatening calls on his cell phone in English and Urdu, Pakistan's main language.

'"The people inside the house are serving Islam and any harm to them will be dangerous for you,"' Hussain said the caller warned him.

"They were highly organized terrorists. They were so well informed that they remained in touch with their men (on the outside) during the raid."

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