Pakistan has announced the capture of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a top Al Qaeda operative indicted in the US for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, report agencies.
The arrest comes barely two months after the FBI put him on its most wanted list with six other terrorists believed to be planning more attacks on American interests. The August 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania had killed more than 200 people, and the FBI had offered a reward of $25m for information leading to the arrest of Ghailani, a 30-year-old Tanzanian.
Ghailani, who was indicted in absentia by a New York Court in December 1998, was among a dozen people, including his Uzbek wife, arrested in the central Pakistani city of Gujrat after a gun battle with the police on Sunday. However, his identity was confirmed later, said Pakistan interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat.
"This is a big success. As a result of our investigation, it became clear that he was a major figure wanted for the bombings," said Hayat. Ghailani would be interrogated in Pakistan before a decision was taken on his future, he said. "We have to first investigate him here in Pakistan and then we'll see," he said, responding to reports that Ghailani had been handed over to American authorities.
Pakistan says it has arrested some 600 al-Qaeda suspects--including top operatives like Abu Zubaida, Khalid Sheikh and Ramzi bin al Shib--since the US-led coalition launched military operation against al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001.
Ghailani's arrest also led to fears of a retaliatory militant strike against Pakistani leaders and western diplomats in the country. Steps were being taken to further upgrade the security of President General Pervez Musharraf, who survived at least two assassination attempts last year, said Hayat. "We remain committed to fighting terrorism. We would not be discouraged by any threats," he said.