- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 15, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan United States and Pakistani officials continued to question a key al Qaeda leader arrested last week, even as Germany said yesterday that it will seek the extradition of the man believed to be from the Hamburg cell that carried out the September 11 attacks in the United States.
Pakistani officials confirmed yesterday that they were holding about a dozen foreigners arrested last week on suspicion they were al Qaeda members, including Ramzi Binalshibh, who U.S. authorities say was a key planner of the September 11 attacks.
The FBI believes Binalshibh, a roommate of hijack leader Mohamed Atta in Germany, was to have been the 20th hijacker but was denied entry into the United States.
In Washington, U.S. officials said they were convinced the man was Binalshibh, even though the Pakistani official said he kept insisting under interrogation that his name was Abdullah.
German Interior Minister Otto Schily, speaking on the sidelines of a European Union conference in Copenhagen, said he would like to see Binalshibh tried in Germany. Attorney General John Ashcroft also was present at the meeting.
German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin said German authorities will cooperate with others who may want custody of Binalshibh.
"There is no question we want to bring him before a German court, and we will have to check the procedure," Mrs. Daeubler-Gmelin said. "We are very happy that they got him, and we will speak with others who want to have him. There is no reason for a dispute about this."
Should the United States seek to gain custody of Binalshibh, which seems likely, an extradition to Germany beforehand could raise serious legal snarls.
Germany, like other EU partners, customarily has refused to send prisoners in its custody to countries where they could face the death penalty. Germany has also refused to provide the United States with evidence against Zacarias Moussaoui, who is facing a terrorism trial in a federal court in Virginia. He is a French citizen of Moroccan descent and he was to take over as the 20th hijacker after Binalshibh was denied a U.S. visa, but was arrested by U.S. authorities about a month before the attacks.
A Pakistani government statement said the dozen foreigners were apprehended and two were killed during raids in Karachi on Monday night and Wednesday morning. "Two out of those arrested are suspected to be high-level al Qaeda men and their identity is being confirmed," the statement added.
Binalshibh was apprehended during the raid Wednesday the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks at an apartment house in an upscale neighborhood of Karachi, a teeming city of more than 12 million.
Those in the apartment fired grenades and automatic weapons at police, triggering a four-hour gunbattle that left two of the Islamic militants dead and seven policemen wounded.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told CNN on Friday that one Egyptian, one Saudi and eight Yemenis were arrested in connection with the raid.
Binalshibh, 30, was born in Yemen. A correspondent for the Persian Gulf-based Al Jazeera satellite station claimed to have interviewed him and another top suspect, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, in Karachi three months ago. The interview was broadcast this week.
Yesterday, an Arabic language Web site that focuses on developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan issued a statement on the apparent arrest of Binalshibh, implying that it may have been linked to the Al Jazeera interview.
"The arrest of Binalshibh, who is also wanted by German intelligence, came a few days after an interview on Al Jazeera was broadcast," the statement said. "We would like to indicate that if, God forbid, this news is correct, this means there was a kind of treason that caused brother Ramzi to fall into the hands of those infidels, which requires a warning to all brothers."
Ibrahim Helal, Al Jazeera's editor in chief, denied any link between the arrest and the station's June interview. "Why would the Americans and the Pakistanis wait three months to arrest a man of Binalshibh's importance?" he asked.
He said U.S. authorities had not contacted the Qatar-based station about the interview.


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