ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – An alleged senior Al Qaeda (search) operative who was captured in Britain during anti-terror raids earlier this month secretly visited a remote Pakistani tribal region near Afghanistan in March, an army spokesman and intelligence sources said Monday.
Abu Eisa al-Hindi (search) met with terror suspects in the South Waziristan region, a hideout and training base for Al Qaeda which has been targeted in several Pakistani military operations in recent months, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan confirmed that al-Hindi had paid a "secret" visit to the region in March before "discreetly going back to London."
He said Pakistan got the information about al-Hindi's visit to South Waziristan (search) from Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan (search), an alleged Al Qaeda computer engineer who was captured on July 13 in the eastern city of Lahore.
Khan later led police to Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani (search), a Tanzanian who had a $5 million bounty on his head for his suspected involvement in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in east Africa that killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans.
Since Khan's arrest, Pakistani security agencies and police have arrested about 30 terror suspects, including foreigners and Pakistani militants accused of working for Usama bin Laden's terrorist network.
Information from Khan also led to the arrest of a dozen suspects in Britain on Aug. 3, including al-Hindi, and prompted a terror alert in the United States.
Al-Hindi is suspected of authoring the surveillance documents recovered from Khan and Ghailani's computers that sparked the terror alert.
Khan's computer contained coded e-mails to many other Al Qaeda operatives, as well as photographs of Heathrow airport and other potential terrorist targets in Britain and the United States, according to Pakistani officials.
However, Sultan said the maps and photographs found on Khan's computer were old.
"Those maps and photographs were not new," he said.
U.S. officials have said the photos found on the computers were part of surveillance by suspected Al Qaeda plotters between 2000 and 2001, but the Bush administration considered them another sign Al Qaeda might be planning attacks.
The intelligence official said al-Hindi was accompanied by an explosives expert on his visit to South Waziristan, but it wasn't clear if the expert had come with him from Britain.
Sultan said Pakistan had shared information about al-Hindi's visit to Pakistan with Britain, but he did not elaborate.
Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terror and its security agencies have arrested about 600 terror suspects, including top Al Qaeda operatives since Musharraf threw his support behind America after the Sept. 11 attacks.