A suspected al Qaeda terrorist and leader of the Islamic group that ruled part of Somalia last year was captured and taken to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said yesterday.
He was identified as Abdullahi Sudi Arale.
"We believe him to be an extremely dangerous member of the al Qaeda network," said Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman.
Mr. Whitman said Arale was suspected of acting as a courier between al Qaeda in East Africa and al Qaeda in Pakistan and helping the Africans acquire weapons and explosives.
A Defense Department statement also said that since his return from Pakistan to Somalia in September, Arale had a leadership role in the Council of Islamic Courts, which ruled part of Somalia for six months before being driven from power in January by Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies with the help of U.S. military air power.
Officials also say Arale helped foreign fighters travel into Somalia by getting them false documents.
"The capture of Abdullahi Sudi Arale exemplifies the genuine threat that the United States and other countries face throughout the world from dangerous extremists," the Pentagon said.
Mr. Whitman said Arale was transferred to Guantanamo this week after being captured in the past couple of weeks in the Horn of Africa. He declined to provide additional details about the suspect or his capture.
The U.S. military has stepped up its activity in the Horn of Africa region this year. Several foreign and Somali Islamic militants were reported killed last week in fighting with Somali government forces and during a bombardment from a U.S. Navy ship in Somalia's semiautonomous northeastern region of Puntland. The U.S. also assisted with air strikes when the Council of Islamic Courts was ousted in January.
The United States has accused Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts of harboring international terrorists linked to al Qaeda and of responsibility for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.