PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A key suspect being held in Pakistan in connection with the alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic jetliners has given Pakistani interrogators "vital clues," a government minister said Saturday.
Rashid Rauf, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin who was caught in Pakistan on Aug. 9, has been described as a "key person" by Pakistan's government, which says he had contacts with an Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda operative.
Pakistan has not revealed the name of any such Al Qaeda operative, although two Pakistani security officials say the operative mastermind the plot after getting nod from al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
On Saturday, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said Rauf had "wider international links" and was in touch with an Afghanistan-based Al Qaeda leader.
He did not offer any evidence to back up his claim.
Pakistan is a key ally of the United States and Britain in the war on terror, and it has said British authorities had arrested about two dozen suspects in connection with the plot from its information.
Although Britain has released the names of all detainees, Pakistan has withheld information about at least seven suspects, whom security officials say were arrested on Rauf's information.
Pakistan has no extradition treaty with Britain, but Sherpao said they would consider deporting Rauf to London if any such request was made to them.
Rauf, in his mid-20s, is believed to be being interrogated by Pakistan agents near the capital, Islamabad. He had ties by marriage to Masood Azhar, leader of an Al Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Azhar has lived in Bhawalpur, a city in eastern Pakistan where Rauf had also settled.
However, Pakistan has said the group had no links to the plot.