- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is the highest-ranking al Qaeda leader captured so far in the war against international terrorism, U.S. officials said yesterday.
A senior U.S. official called the arrest early yesterday in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, a major strike against al Qaeda.
"It is huge," the official said. "He has been a very big player in al Qaeda and among the top four or five leaders."
According to the official, Mohammed has admitted in interviews to having helped plan the September 11 attacks and being involved in other attacks or terrorist plots going back to 1995.
Additionally, Mohammed has been involved in most of the al Qaeda attacks and plans since September 11.
"He's been linked to plots in Europe, Asia and the United States," the senior official said.
Mohammed also dispatched al Qaeda member Jose Padilla to the United States as part of a plan to conduct a radiological attack inside the United States. Padilla was arrested in June 2002 as he entered the country.
The official said it is hoped that Mohammed will reveal what he knows about September 11 and other al Qaeda activities.
As for the impact of the arrest, the official said: "It clearly has to be disruptive to them and strikes a blow at the organization. They have to rethink everything he was involved in."
U.S. officials will question Mohammed at a location outside the United States.
The final report of a joint House-Senate intelligence inquiry into the September 11 attacks describes Mohammed as "now recognized by the intelligence community as the mastermind of the attacks."
The report released in December states that intelligence agencies had information linking Mohammad to Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader, and terrorist plans to use aircraft as weapons. Information also connected Mohammad to terrorist activity in the United States, the report states.
"The intelligence community, however, relegated Khalid Sheik Mohammed to rendition target status following his 1996 indictment in connection with the Bojinka Plot and, as a result, focused primarily on his location, rather than his activities and place in the al Qaeda hierarchy," the report said.
Mohammed was arrested by Pakistani authorities during a raid on the city of Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad.
Intelligence officials said Mohammed was nearly arrested last year during an earlier raid in Karachi, Pakistan, that netted Ramzi Binalshibh, who was an aide to Mohammed.
The Bojinka Plot was uncovered by Philippines authorities in Manila in 1995 and led to the discovery of a plan to blow up airliners headed for the United States. Documents recovered from a computer used by al Qaeda terrorists also discussed plans to fly airliners into buildings in terrorist attacks.
"The community also did not recognize the significance of reporting in June 2001 concerning [Khalid Shaikh Mohammads] active role in sending terrorists to the United States, or the facilitation of their activities upon arriving in the United States," the congressional reports said. "Collection efforts were not targeted on information about [Khalid Shaikh Mohammad] that might have helped better understand al Qaeda's plans and intentions, and [Mohammads] role in the September 11 attacks was a surprise to the Intelligence Community."
Mohammad is a Kuwaiti national who is a possible relative of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who coordinated the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, and the later plot to bomb airliners over the Pacific, according to U.S. officials.
Mohammed was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges connected to the 1995 airliner plot, that called for placing bombs on aircraft flying between Southeast Asia and the United States.
He was placed on the FBI's Most Wanted terrorist list.
U.S. officials said yesterday that they hope Mohammed will provide information about the September 11 plot and about other activities of the group.
Details about Mohammed's role in the September 11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, which killed more than 3,000 people, were learned after March 2002, when another key al Qaeda operative, Abu Zubaydah, was captured in Pakistan.
Intelligence officials said Mohammed was considered to be one of the highest-ranking al Qaeda leaders after bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahri and Mohammed Atef, who was killed in U.S. bombing raids in Afghanistan.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told The Washington Post last year that Mohammed played a key role in the September 11 attacks.
"I think we're confident that he was one of the key figures," Mr. Mueller said.
Former CIA officer Robert Baer said Mohammed was known as a key terrorist since the late 1990s.
The FBI nearly captured him when he was offered up by authorities in Qatar in 1997, only to be thwarted by a Qatari government minister who helped Mohammed escape. He then was traced to Prague, Mr. Baer said.
Mr. Baer also said Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was attempting to meet in secret with Mohammed when he was kidnapped and murdered.

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