The arrest of al Liby
could be a critical blow
to the terrorist network masterminded by Osama bin Laden
is India News Service
5 May 2005
Yesterday’s capture of an al Qaeda man in
Pakistan has revived the hope that its mastermind Osama bin Laden will soon be
is too early to say whether Abu Faraj Farj al Liby will show investigators the
way to the heart of the bin Laden maze, and eventually to the mastermind
himself, but his arrest is widely acknowledged as a major breakthrough for the
Pakistani authorities, and the US allies.
For a man said to have been number three in al Qaeda, Abu Faraj Farj al Liby
managed to keep a remarkably low profile.
His picture wasn't even among the mugshots on a U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation Web site of "most wanted terrorists", although U.S.
counter-terrorism officials say he became al Qaeda's operations chief and third
in command two years ago.
But Pakistani intelligence sources say the Libyan's capture presents the best
chance yet of tracking down bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri. "If
anyone in Pakistan knows their whereabouts it would be him," one
intelligence official told Reuters, although Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao
said it was "premature" to speculate.
Liby shot to prominence in Pakistan after intelligence sources named him as the
real brains behind two assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf in
He was characterised as the head of al Qaeda's operations there, although the
hits on Musharraf carried out by Pakistani militants were ordered by Zawahri.
The authorities released a photograph of Liby to Pakistani newspapers in the
months after those attacks, but few details about the man were disclosed.
Ministry photograph of the captured militant showed a bearded man suffering from
a skin ailment akin to vitiligo, a disease causing blotchiness due to a loss of
Jubilant Pakistani officials say their capture of Al
Qaeda’s presumed No. 3 man at his barren hideout will boost the hunt for Osama
bin Laden, while US President George W. Bush hailed the arrest as a victory that
removes a key enemy.
The arrest of al-Libbi
drew praise by US officials as the biggest blow to Al Qaeda in more than two
He also was
Pakistan’s most-wanted man, the main suspect behind two 2003 assassination
attempts against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf - and is likely to face the
death penalty in Pakistan if convicted.
Commandos seized al-Libbi
along with another foreigner Monday after a firefight outside the hardscrabble
town of Mardan in Pakistan’s northwest, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north
of Peshawar, Pakistani officials said. The arrests were announced Wednesday.
Witnesses said one of two men captured there Monday was
disguised with a burqa, the all-encompassing veil worn by women in conservative
Al-Libbi, a native of Libya who’s thought to use at least five aliases, was
behind only Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri and bin Laden himself in the terror
group’s hierarchy, US counterterrorism officials said, speaking on condition
of anonymity. Al-Libbi is believed responsible for planning attacks in the
United States, the officials said.
The American commander of the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan,
Lieutenant-General David Barno, stated
on April 18 that terrorists were infiltrating into Afghanistan from
Pakistan, and that Islamabad had been asked to begin a fresh operation against
remnants of Taliban and al-Qaeda presently hiding in the Waziristan region of
However, Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant-General Safdar Hussain was quick to
dismiss Barno's claim on April 20, describing it as a highly irresponsible
remark: "Lt Gen Barno should not have made that statement. It was a figment
of his imagination. There is no bloody operation going on until we have the
right intelligence." Safdar, while ruling out joint military operations
with the US-led coalition forces, added, "My strategy is to achieve the end
goal without firing a shot."
These point to differences within the anti-terror coalitions of various
countries. The Peshawar corps commander's statement was followed by Director
General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Shaukat Sultan's
rejoinder, claiming, "No such military operation is being launched, and we
decide for ourselves what needs to be done and when and where." Barno made
his statement during a meeting of the tripartite commission of the US,
Afghanistan and Pakistan that was held in Islamabad on April 18.
According to Pakistani media reports, the US general claimed during the meeting
that remnants of Taliban and al-Qaeda were planning to stage some high
visibility attacks over the next six to nine months, which would get them back
on the scoreboard after suffering major strategic reversals.
Ten days later, on April 28, Barno in an interview to The New York Times stated
further: "The Americans have been training Pakistanis in night flying and
airborne assault tactics to combat foreign and local fighters in the tribal
areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border." Significantly, this was the
first time the American military acknowledged the training. Barno further
admitted that the presence of American troops in Pakistan was regarded as
extremely delicate, adding that he had visited the Special Services Group
headquarters of the Pakistan army at Cherat, near Peshawar, recently, where he
watched a display by the units trained by the US in their new Bell 4
However, the New York Times report also quoted ISPR's Sultan as saying that
there were no American military trainers at Cherat and that Barno had probably
been referring to joint military exercises between the two countries. He told
the newspaper in a phone interview, "The Pakistan army has been training
with many countries of the world. We have also been conducting joint military
training with the US Army many a time earlier. They benefit from each other's
experience. They learn from each other. That's what has been happening, and
nothing else." Yet, contrary to the claims of the Pakistani generals, the
report stated that the Pakistan army was gearing up to go into the last redoubts
of al-Qaeda and foreign fighters - the tribal areas of North Waziristan near the
border with Afghanistan.
and peace in Waziristan,
al Qaeda man could hold key to bin Laden, Reuters
says capture of Al Qaeda No. 3 helps the hunt for bin Laden, Khaleej Times