- The Washington Times - Friday, August 6, 2004

From combined dispatches

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Pakistani computer expert linked to U.S. security alerts and the arrest of 11 terrorism suspects in Britain was part of an undercover sting operation before Washington revealed his name, a Pakistani intelligence source and British media reports said yesterday.

U.S. officials revealed the name of captured al Qaeda suspect Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan while he was still cooperating with Pakistani authorities in a sting operation, an intelligence source told Reuters news agency.

Khan e-mailed comrades Sunday and Monday as part of the Pakistani operation against Osama bin Laden’s network, the source said.

But his name appeared in the New York Times on Monday after anonymous briefings by U.S. officials, determined to present a public justification for security alerts that caused widespread disruption in New York and other cities.

“He was cooperating with interrogators Sunday and Monday and sent e-mails on both days,” the intelligence source said. Khan was moved to a new location Monday evening, he said.

“After his capture, he admitted being an al Qaeda member and agreed to send e-mails to his contacts,” the source said.

“He sent encoded e-mails and received encoded replies. He’s a great hacker and even the U.S. agents said he was a computer whiz.”

The source said Khan had intended to hack into both the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Web site and a British official Web site to destroy them.

The Times newspaper in London said Khan was forced to cooperate with Pakistani authorities in the undercover sting operation in the weeks after his arrest on July 13.

“His arrest was kept secret, and he was made to remain in touch with his contacts. During his detention, he regularly communicated through e-mail with the al Qaeda operatives in Britain and other countries. That helped us to identify them,” a senior Pakistani government official told the paper.

Khan’s help led to the July 25 arrest of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian indicted for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. On the two men’s computers, authorities found maps and surveillance reports on U.S. financial centers and London’s Heathrow Airport.

British security forces arrested 13 persons in raids the day after the New York Times revealed Khan’s name, apparently using information from the computers and Khan’s e-mail messages. Two persons were later freed, including one freed yesterday.

British police sources acknowledged that they were forced to mount the raids more hastily than planned. The sweep bore clear signs of haste. Britain normally conducts anti-terror raids in the early morning when suspects are at home. Tuesday police swooped in broad daylight, dragging some suspects out of shops and catching others in a car chase.

British police also arrested Babar Ahmad, a cousin of Khan’s, on Wednesday on a U.S. extradition warrant that said he used U.S.-based Web sites to raise funds for al Qaeda operations in Afghanistan.

Among those held in Britain is a senior al Qaeda member, known as Abu Eisa al-Hindi or Abu Musa al-Hindi, who is suspected of having written the surveillance reports, the Associated Press reported, citing a British official.

He is believed to have been in the United States in 2000.

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