- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

U.S. and Pakistani agents jointly interrogated Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, suspected as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, yesterday, while congressmen said Mohammed's capture will lead to arrests of others in the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Mohammed, 37, was arrested on Saturday with two others reported to be tied to al Qaeda in a house in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, near Islamabad. Mohammed has also been identified by U.S. and Pakistani officials as the terrorist who slit the throat of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002, then killed and beheaded.
Mohammed, who had a hand in many of al Qaeda's most notorious attacks and was on the FBI's Most Wanted List, had been on the run for a decade. The U.S. government had offered a reward of as much as $25 million for information leading to his incarceration.
Mohammed is the highest-ranking al Qaeda leader captured in the international war against terrorism, U.S. officials said.
Members of Congress who appeared on network news talk shows yesterday said Mohammed's capture was a major victory in the war on terrorism. They noted that he is the third-highest leader in al Qaeda, after Osama bin Laden and Egyptian Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Some said his arrest could help in the capture of bin Laden and other at-large al Qaeda operatives and disrupt terrorist plans.
"This is a very huge event. This is the equivalent of the liberation of Paris in the Second World War," said Rep. Porter J. Goss, Florida Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, on ABC's "This Week."
"This is just extremely important, and it is going to lead to other very successful activities very shortly, I'm sure," Mr. Goss said.
On "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican and chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called Mohammed a "really big fish … the kingfish.
"If there was one person that we wanted to get, it was this man … al Qaeda's operations manager," Mr. Roberts said.
"We got the operations manager; more coming," he said.
In addition to capturing Mohammed and his associates, Pakistani agents seized computers, phone lists, plans and other materials that could prove useful in tracking down other terrorists.
Yesterday, Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat denied earlier reports from his government that Mohammed had been handed over to U.S. authorities shortly after his arrest.
Mohammed is "in the custody of Pakistani law-enforcement agencies, and until we have satisfied ourselves, after the interrogation process, of the nature of his activities in Pakistan, there is no question of handing him over to anyone," Mr. Hayat told Reuters news agency.
The interior minister said that only when the Pakistani government receives a formal request for Mohammed's extradition will he be handed over to another country.
However, Pakistani Information Minister Sheik Rashid said he could not guarantee that Mohammed would be in Pakistan today. He did not elaborate.
Mohammed, who was born in Kuwait to parents from Pakistan, evaded at least six attempts to catch him.
On Fox, Mr. Roberts said of the capture: "It's a giant step backward for al Qaeda. It was a real coup to get the operations manager, the guy who's pulling the strings and saying, 'We're going to do this. We're going to do that.'"
Mr. Goss, on ABC, said that having Mohammed in custody "gives us more focus … and more clarity on exactly where to go and what to look at" to find other al Qaeda leaders and prevent attacks.
Mr. Roberts said it wouldn't surprise him if bin Laden is near where Pakistani agents captured Mohammed.
Mr. Goss said he believes that Mohammed knows where bin Laden is, and that he's talked to him, but that the suspect "may not participate too willingly" in sharing that information with U.S. investigators.
Sen, John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat and member of the Intelligence Committee, described Mohammed's capture this way on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer": "This arrest is as big or bigger than bin Laden, because this man was the brain [of al Qaeda]. This is the guy who's been behind everything."
Mr. Rockefeller and Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, who joined him on CNN, said they expect Mohammed to be the subject of aggressive interrogation. "We do not sanction torture, but there are psychological and other means that can accomplish most of what we want," Mr. Rockefeller said.
Mr. Lott said he thinks investigators will use psychological pressure and sleep deprivation "to try to get the information he has."
He and most others in Congress interviewed on Sunday talk shows praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for cooperating with the United States in the search for and capture of Mohammed.
On Fox, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, called the capture a "phenomenal breakthrough" but qualified those remarks.
Mr. Biden said Mohammed was "living in plain daylight" in the home of a political official.
"There is overwhelming reason to believe the other 22 of the top 25 [al Qaeda chiefs] we're looking for, including Osama bin Laden, are in the vicinity," he said.
Mr. Biden said he wonders whether the United States would have shut down al Qaeda by now if it had assigned the same troop strength that it has deployed for a war in Iraq in Afghanistan and along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

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