ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A suspect slain in a shootout with Pakistani agents this week was a senior Al Qaeda operative from Syria behind militant attacks in Pakistan's tribal regions and against U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, Pakistan's interior minister said Saturday.
Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao identified the suspect as Marwan Hadid al-Suri, 38. He died in a gunbattle Thursday after agents acting on tip-off stopped him at a roadblock at Khar, a town near the northwestern tribal region of Bajur.
"He (al-Suri) was in charge of Al Qaeda operations against Pakistani forces in North and South Waziristan. He was behind attacks against coalition and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan," Sherpao told The Associated Press.
His identity was confirmed after experts scanned a laptop computer, a diary and some other documents found in his vehicle after the shootout, which left one agent dead and two wounded, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to media.
Al-Suri, said to be an explosives experts, also ran a financial network and had distributed money among terrorists and their families, including a relative of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, the official said. It was not clear when and where he operated the network.
According to information found in the diary, al-Suri had distributed amounts of up to $2,500, the official said. On the computer, there was information on how to use explosives.
However, investigators found no information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, or al-Zarqawi, he said. Intelligence officials have said the slain militant was thought to be a close associate of al-Zawahiri.
Sherpao said that al-Suri had been wanted by the United States, though his name does not appear on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists. U.S. Embassy officials in Islamabad could not immediately be reached for comment.
Earlier this month, Pakistan said it killed Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, 45, an Egyptian on the FBI list for his alleged involvement in 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.
Bajur, the region where al-Suri was killed, lies opposite Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, a stronghold of Taliban an Al Qaeda militants. Some 2,500 U.S. and Afghan forces are currently deployed there in a major operation to flush out militants, amid an upswing in attacks on coalition forces. Pakistan's army says it has also sent troops to block its side of the border to prevent militants retreating onto its soil.
In January, a U.S. missile strike purportedly targeted al-Zawahri at Damadola, a village in Bajur. Pakistani intelligence officials have said al-Zawahiri was not at the site of the attack, but at least four Al Qaeda militants were believed killed, along with 13 villagers. The militants' bodies have not been found.