- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was captured yesterday in a raid in Pakistan involving U.S. agents, officials said.
The arrest is a major coup in the war against terrorism and could provide new clues in the search for Osama bin Laden. Mohammed, 37, is perhaps the most senior member of the al Qaeda terrorist network after bin Laden and Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri.
"It's hard to overstate how significant this is," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "It's a wonderful blow to inflict on al Qaeda."
Mohammed, a naturalized Pakistani who was born in Kuwait, is on the FBI's Most Wanted list and had a hand in many of al Qaeda's most notorious attacks. The U.S. government had offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading to his capture.
Mohammed was arrested along with two other men in Rawalpindi, a city near the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. The raid was the work of both U.S. and Pakistani agents, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials who requested anonymity.
Pakistan has handed over other al Qaeda suspects to the United States, but officials here would not say whether that was the plan this time. Military officials in the United States also would not comment on whether Mohammed would be turned over to the United States or another country.
"This is a great success today, but the war on terrorism goes on tomorrow," said Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla. "There's still a lot of work to do."
U.S. officials say Mohammed organized the September 11, 2001, terror mission that sent hijacked passenger jets crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, killing more than 3,000 people.
But even before then, Mohammed was wanted in connection with plots in the Philippines to bomb trans-Pacific airliners and crash a plane into CIA headquarters. Those were broken up in 1995.
He also has been linked to April's bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia. At least 19 tourists, mostly Germans, were killed.
Mohammed was arrested along with a second man of Middle Eastern origin and a Pakistani, Ahmed Abdul Qadoos, 42, a member of one of the country's main religious parties, Jamaat-e-Islami. The identity of the Middle Eastern man has not been revealed.
Mohammed narrowly escaped capture in a raid about a week ago in the southwestern town of Quetta, a Pakistani government source said. During that raid, a Middle Eastern man, possibly of Egyptian origin, was arrested, according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"At the time of that raid in Quetta the authorities were looking for Khalid Shaikh [Mohammed] but he escaped and from there they followed him to Rawalpindi," the official said. "They got information from the man they picked up in Quetta and from phone calls until they tracked him down to Rawalpindi."
Senior government officials said the three men were arrested about 3 a.m. local time yesterday at a house where Qadoos lives with his father.
But Omar Qadoos, Ahmed's cousin, said only Ahmed, his wife and two children were in the house. There also was a guard outside, he said.
"The police pounded on the gate and then they rushed through. There was some firing, but no one was hurt and then they beat the guard and broke the lock on the front door," Omar Qadoos said.
He said police held the family at gunpoint while they collected cassettes, a computer and computer disks, leaving the floor littered with clothes, papers and other items.
Mohammed's ties to terrorism are deep. He is the uncle of convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirator Ramzi Yousef, and one of his older brothers also belongs to al Qaeda. Another brother died in Pakistan when a bomb he was making exploded.
He also is said to be close to bin Laden's son, Saad.
In Washington, the FBI refused to confirm that Mohammed was arrested or say whether the bureau was involved.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has said a small number of FBI agents are in Pakistan but only to provide intelligence on al Qaeda or Taliban fugitives from neighboring Afghanistan.
However, Pakistani police and intelligence officials say FBI agents have been involved in nearly every important terror arrest in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government says it has handed over more than 420 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects to the United States.
Until now, the biggest catch was the arrest last March of al Qaeda's suspected financier, Abu Zubaydah, who was taken into custody in a raid in the central Pakistani city of Faisalabad.
Zubaydah, a Saudi-born Palestinian, was said to be a link between bin Laden and many of al Qaeda's operational cells.
Zubaydah ran the Khalden camp in Afghanistan, where U.S. investigators believe many of the September 11 hijackers trained.
On Sept. 11, 2002, Ramzi Binalshibh, a would-be hijacker who could not get into the United States, was captured in the southern port city of Karachi.

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