(AFP) Pakistani security forces have arrested a key Al-Qaeda operative wanted in connection with attacks on Christian targets and a failed bid to kill President Pervez Musharraf, an official said.
Osama Nazir, considered an important catch, was nabbed from the industrial city of Faisalabad in central Punjab province on Tuesday, a senior security official told AFP.
“He is the most important Pakistani Al-Qaeda operative who was facilitating foreign Al-Qaeda operatives for attacks in Pakistan,” the official, who asked not to be identified, said on Friday.
“He is a prized catch and was a main link between foreign Al-Qaeda operatives and local jihadi (Islamic militant) groups.”
Nazir headed a group of 24 militants and masterminded the March 2002 attack on a Church in Islamabad’s high security diplomatic enclave in which five people including a US diplomat’s wife and stepdaughter were killed.
He was also involved in the August 5, 2002 attack on the Murree Christian School, northeast of Islamabad, in which six Pakistani guards were killed, and August 9 attack on the Christian Hospital chapel in Taxila, west of Islamabad. Four Pakistani nurses and one of the attackers were killed, while 26 people were wounded in Taxila attack.
Officials said Nazir helped Amjad Farooqi, the Al-Qaeda lynchpin in Pakistan, in masterminding the December 25 attempt on Musharraf’s life.
“Osama Nazir assisted Farooqi in plotting last year’s December 25 assassination attempt on President Musharraf,” the official said.
Farooqi was shot dead during a two-hour gunbattle in September at a rural hideout in southern Pakistan and also said to have arranged the beheading of US reporter Daniel Pearl.
Musharraf survived two assassination attempts on his motorcade on December 14 and 25 last year.
After Farooqi was killed, Nazir assumed his position in Pakistan and he was working with the two most wanted Al-Qaeda external operatives Abu Faraj Farj, a Libyan and Abu Hamza, an Egyptian.
The United States has offered five million dollars for the arrest of either man.
The Pakistan government had also announced two million rupees reward for the arrest of Nazir.
Nazir’s arrest is the latest in a series of high profile arrests of Al-Qaeda operatives made by Pakistani security forces since May.
Others detained include Tanzanian national Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was convicted for the 1998 twin bombings of US embassies in East Africa, and Pakistani Al-Qaeda computer expert Naeem Noor Khan.