- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan U.S. and Pakistani authorities are trying to determine whether an Arab arrested in raids here this week is a key lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, a senior police official said yesterday.
The man bears a strong resemblance to Abu Zubaydah, bin Laden's senior field commander, who is believed to be trying to reorganize al Qaeda after the collapse of Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
"We are trying to confirm the identity of one Arab who is believed to be Abu Zubaydah," Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a senior Interior Ministry official, told the Associated Press.
The man is among 60 persons, including 25 Arabs and four Afghans, who were arrested Thursday in raids by Pakistani and U.S. agents in Faisalabad and Lahore.
A police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said authorities were waiting for information from the United States before determining the man's identity. He did not elaborate.
If the detainee is Zubaydah, he would be the most important al Qaeda official captured by the U.S.-led coalition since military operations began in Afghanistan on Oct. 7.
Zubaydah, 30, is believed to have been born in Saudi Arabia but has strong ties in Jordan and to the Palestinians. He has been sentenced to death in Jordan and is believed to be connected to many of al Qaeda's operations against U.S. interests.
Sources in Afghanistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Zubaydah had fled to Pakistan and had taken control of al Qaeda because it was too dangerous for bin Laden and his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to communicate from their Afghan hide-outs.
Zubaydah was believed to be behind recent efforts to reorganize and revive al Qaeda after its Taliban allies collapsed last year under relentless U.S. air strikes and ground attacks by Afghans allied with the American-led coalition.
Pakistani newspapers and witnesses said the raids were carried out by mixed teams of Pakistani and American agents, who seized weapons, laptop computers and other documents. One suspect was killed, and five others, including a police officer, were wounded.
The raids appeared linked to the investigation into the March 17 grenade attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad in which five persons, including two Americans and the assailant, were killed.
The participation of American agents, however, is politically sensitive for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who reversed nearly 20 years of support for religious militants and joined the anti-terror coalition after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Yesterday, Gen. Musharraf's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Quereshi, denied that any Americans had participated in the raids. "This is totally incorrect and misleading," Gen. Quereshi said.
U.S. officials here and in Washington declined to discuss the operation.
In a separate arrest, police in Punjab province arrested an extremist, Abdul Manan, who belonged to the militant Sunni Muslim Sipah-e-Sahaba movement. Pakistan television said the man received training in Afghanistan and had been involved in several acts of terrorism.
Also yesterday, a Pakistani court asked the government to release Islamic leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who was detained three months ago in the crackdown on Muslim militants.
Saeed, the former chief of the Kashmiri militant movement Lashkar-e-Taiba, was taken into custody in December after speaking out against the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan.


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