St. Petersburg Times Online: World and Nation

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

Raid snares key 9/11 suspect

Al-Qaida leader Khalid Mohammed's arrest in Pakistan could be a coup in the war against terrorism.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- In a victory for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man suspected of planning the Sept. 11 attacks and a senior al-Qaida operative, was captured Saturday in a joint raid by CIA and Pakistani agents.

The arrest of Mohammed and two other men outside the Pakistani capital of Islamabad likely will hurt the terrorist organization's ability to strike and could provide the United States with new clues in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

"It's hard to overstate how significant this is," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "It's a wonderful blow to inflict on al-Qaida."

Mohammed, 37, is perhaps the most senior al-Qaida member after bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri.

A naturalized Pakistani who was born in Kuwait, Mohammed is on the FBI's most wanted list and is said to have had a hand in many of al-Qaida's most notorious attacks; among them:

The first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

A 1995 plot to blow up 12 U.S.-bound airliners over the Pacific Ocean.

The 1998 suicide assaults on U.S. embassies in Africa.

The 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

The April 2002 bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia.

The U.S. government had offered a reward of up to $25-million for information leading to his capture.

Mohammed is the third senior al-Qaida figure to be arrested in Pakistan. He was taken Saturday in Rawalpindi, a city near Islamabad, Information Minister Sheik Rashid Ahmed said.

CIA officers and Pakistani authorities carried out the operation that led to Mohammed's capture, according to the Associated Press, which cited American officials.

Pakistani authorities said that Mohammed would be turned over to U.S. custody, according to the New York Times.

U.S. officials say Mohammed was the central architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror mission that sent hijacked passenger jets crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing more than 3,000 people.

Mohammed was arrested along with a Pakistani man identified as Ahmed Abdul Qadoos, a 42-year-old member of one of the country's main religious parties, Jamaat-e-Islami. A third unidentified man, described as being of Middle Eastern origin, also was arrested.

Knight Ridder reported that U.S. officials suspect the third man is Saif al-Adil, a high-ranking member of al-Qaida also reportedly linked to the deadly blasts at the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998.

Mohammed narrowly escaped capture in a raid about a week ago in the southwestern town of Quetta, AP reported, citing a Pakistani government source. During that raid, a Middle Eastern man, possibly of Egyptian origin, was arrested, AP reported. That man helped lead officials to Mohammed in Rawalpindi, according to AP.

Senior government officials said the three men were arrested about 3 a.m. local time Saturday at a house where Qadoos lives with his father.

But Omar Qadoos, Ahmed's cousin, said only Ahmed, his wife and two children were in the house. There also was a guard outside, he said.

"The police pounded on the gate and then they rushed through. There was some firing, but no one was hurt and then they beat the guard and broke the lock on the front door," Omar Qadoos said.

He said police held the family at gunpoint while they collected cassettes, a computer and computer discs, leaving the floor littered with clothes, papers and other items.

Mohammed's ties to terrorism are deep. He is the uncle of convicted 1993 World Trade Center conspirator Ramzi Yousef and one of his older brothers also belongs to al-Qaida. Another brother died in Pakistan when a bomb he was making exploded.

He also is said to be close to bin Laden's son, Saad.

In Washington, the FBI refused to confirm Mohammed was arrested or say whether the bureau was involved.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has said a small number of FBI agents are in Pakistan but only to provide intelligence on al-Qaida or Taliban fugitives from neighboring Afghanistan.

However, Pakistani police and intelligence officials say FBI agents have been involved in nearly every important terror arrest in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government says it has handed over more than 420 al-Qaida and Taliban suspects to the United States.

AT LARGE

OSAMA BIN LADEN: Saudi-born leader of al-Qaida. Thought to be in Afghanistan or Pakistan. A new audio recording of him in which he urged Iraqis to repel a U.S. invasion was broadcast on the Arab-based Al-Jazeera television station last month.

AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI: Reputed to be the No. 2 man in al-Qaida. A medical doctor, al-Zawahri was the leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad. A Pakistani doctor, who treated bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders, said he saw al-Zawahri in Jalabad, Afghanistan, in November 2001.

SAIF AL-ADIL AND MAHFOUZ OULD WALID: The Washington Post reported last August that al-Adil and Walid, also known as Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, have assumed operational control of al-Qaida's military committee, which directs attacks, and its ideological or religious committee, which issues fatwas, or statements, to justify those attacks. They were said then to have taken shelter in Iran along with dozens of other al-Qaida fighters in the border cities of Mashhad and Zabol.

MUSTAFA AHMED AL-HISAWI: A key financier of the attacks, he was last reported in Pakistan. Investigations of financial activity in the United Arab Emirates, where al-Hisawi was based, connected him to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Binalshibh and at least three hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, all in mid 2001. He isn't thought to be a senior al-Qaida leader. Al-Hisawi previously had been reported to be an al-Qaida figure known as Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif.

ALI ABDUL AZIZ ALI: Another financier, he sent money to Atta and two other hijackers in 2000.

TAWFIQ ATTASH KHALLAD: Another top bin Laden lieutenant and a key planner in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, Khallad met with two eventual hijackers in Malaysia in 2000.

CAPTURED

KHALID SHAIKH MOHAMMED: U.S. officials say he is the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. He had become al-Qaida's top operational planner and was linked to the April 2002 bombing at Tunisian synagogue that killed 19. He was indicted in 1996 for his role in a plot to blow up 12 trans-Pacific airliners in flight and a plan to crash a plane into CIA headquarters. He was captured Saturday in Pakistan.

RAMZI BINALSHIBH: This former roommate of hijacker Mohamed Atta is suspected of planning to be the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks. Binalshibh was captured in September 2002 in a joint raid by Pakistani forces and U.S. intelligence officers in Karachi. The raid ended in a deadly shootout. He is being held by U.S. forces in a secret location.

ZACARIAS MOUSSAOUI: Binalshibh told interrogators Moussaoui was an untrusted backup pilot for Sept. 11. Moussaoui, arrested before Sept. 11, says he is an al-Qaida member but was not part of the plot. He is believed to have met Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Afghanistan, and had financial ties to Binalshibh.

ABU ZUBAYDAH: Chief of al-Qaida operations outside of Afghanistan. Since captured in March 2002, Zubaydah has been heavily guarded in an undisclosed location. Though not considered a cooperative witness, he has been talking with interrogators. Some of the information has reportedly proved valuable; some, false.

ABD AL-RAHIM AL-NASHIRI: Al-Qaida's Persian Gulf operations chief who was the mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole. He was captured last November at an airport in an undisclosed country. Officials said he was surprisingly cooperative.

KILLED

MOHAMMED ATEF: As al-Qaida military chief, wrote the group's training manual and apparently ordered the Sept. 11 attacks. He was reported killed in a U.S. airstrike in November 2001 near Kabul, Afghanistan, but he is still on the FBI's list of "Most Wanted Terrorists."

QAED SALIM SINAN AL-HARETHI: A senior leader of al-Qaida in Yemen and also a planner of the attack on the Cole. Killed in a missile strike in November 2002 in Yemen.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.