Top al-Qaeda suspect captured
Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK 

One of the key suspects in the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington last year has been arrested in Pakistan. 

Yemeni national Ramzi Binalshibh, who recently claimed to have been one of the organisers of the attack, was captured after a three-hour gun battle at an apartment building in Karachi. 

Mr Binalshibh, who is said to have shared the Hamburg flat where the attacks were planned with suspected hijack ringleader Mohammed Atta, is on the FBI's most wanted list and has a $25m bounty on his head. 

He is now reported to be undergoing interrogation by the Pakistani police. 

"It's a very sensitive issue," said one US official, quoted by Reuters news agency. 

Phone-call interception

Mr Binalshibh, 30, was detained on Wednesday - the first anniversary of the 11 September attacks - when the flat where he was staying was raided by Pakistani police commandos, supported by US intelligence officers. 

The operation was planned after US intelligence agents intercepted a satellite phone call from the flat, Pakistani security sources said. 

The raid - which prompted one of the fiercest gun battles in Karachi for several years - was reported on Wednesday, but it was not until three days later that an al-Qaeda connection was confirmed. 

Correspondents said it was significant that the confirmation came from US officials, rather than from Pakistan.

The arrests were made after police surrounded the building in southern Karachi - an area which is home to many foreign businessmen. 


When officers police stormed the flat used by suspected al-Qaeda members, a gunfight broke out, which spilled out on to nearby rooftops. 

Two suspects were killed, and the remaining five surrendered, including Mr Binalshibh. 

Six police officers were injured, two of them critically. 

US officials said that no Americans were wounded during the operation, which led to the recovery of heavy weapons and various items of communications equipment from the building. 

Al-Qaeda threats 

The BBC correspondent in Islamabad, Susannah Price, said the arrests are a major coup, both for the Pakistani authorities and the American investigators. 

At the same time, they demonstrate that members of al-Qaeda are present, not just in remote areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but in Karachi - Pakistan's largest city. 

Mr Binalshibh challenged the US authorities to find him in a pre-recorded interview broadcast by the Arab TV network al-Jazeera on Thursday. 

Together with another al-Qaeda suspect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he explained how the group operated and how the 11 September attacks had been planned. 

They said in the interview that Osama Bin Laden had been involved in planning the attacks, and that Mr Binashibh had been the co-ordinator of what was referred to as "Holy Tuesday". 

Visa refusals 

Mr Binalshibh tried to enrol at a US flying school, but was repeatedly refused a US visa. 

Investigators believe he had originally been picked to be one of the leaders of the suicide attacks, but instead handled logistics and financial matters for the al-Qaeda members who were allowed into the US. 

He posed as Atta's girlfriend in Germany when the two communicated through e-mails. 

The German authorities have also issued a warrant for Mr Binalshibh's arrest, for membership of a terrorist organisation. 

In a separate development, US officials say five men of Yemeni origin, believed to be US citizens, have been arrested in Lackawanna, near Buffalo in upper New York state, on suspicion of operating as a terrorist cell. 

They are suspected of attending a training camp linked to Osama Bin Laden. 

However, officials say there is no evidence the men were planning to carry out any attacks.


 

 


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