PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) 03/10/03
Pakistan has arrested 10 men in the northwest city of Peshawar for suspected al Qaeda links and an intelligence source said on Monday one was believed to have had contact with Osama bin Laden.
The source said the man, identified only as Masood and reported to be either an Afghan or an Egyptian, had received a telephone call that was traced by a team monitoring satellite and mobile phone conversations of suspected terrorists.
Monitored calls had included conversations with senior members of bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We think he was in contact with Osama bin Laden,” said the source, but added that it was unclear if a conversation with the al Qaeda leader had been among those monitored.
Masood was arrested as part of a swoop on Saturday that also netted an Iraqi Kurd and an Iranian in an upmarket neighborhood of Peshawar, which is near the border with Afghanistan (news – web sites).
Seven other al Qaeda suspects, including a Pakistani, three Afghans and three Arabs, were held in a series of raids in the city on Monday.
News of the arrests came from intelligence sources. No official comment was immediately available.
On March 1, Pakistani authorities said they had arrested Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on the United States and one of al Qaeda’s top members, in a raid in the northern city of Rawalpindi.
Pakistan’s main intelligence agency, the military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), said on Monday Mohammed’s arrest had already yielded information that should bring security forces closer to capturing bin Laden.
The ISI, holding the first briefing in its history for foreign journalists, said Mohammad had said he had met bin Laden last December, but it was unclear if he was telling the truth as he had not said where the meeting took place.
“The arrest…is indicative that we are moving forward,” a senior intelligence official said. “He confirmed he met (bin Laden) in December. I don’t believe him unless he tells us the locations and gives us witnesses.”
Both bin Laden and the leader of Afghanistan’s former Taliban government, Mullah Omar, have remained elusive since the Taliban were ousted by a U.S.-led military coalition in late 2001.
They are top targets of President Bush (news – web sites)’s war on terror launched after the September 11, 2001 suicide plane attacks on New York and Washington.
Many al Qaeda and Taliban members are thought to have taken refuge in rugged territory along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
U.S. officials said last week they believed bin Laden was hiding in the area.
Pakistani officials say Mohammed was arrested in Rawalpindi with two other suspects, including Saudi Ahmed al-Hawsawi, alleged to be one of the financiers of the September 11 attacks.