- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 5, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan has shared with the United States initial results of its interrogation of al Qaeda’s reputed No. 3 Abu Farraj al-Libbi, who stayed silent for hours after his capture this week before confessing his identity, an intelligence official said yesterday.

‘Only two questions are being asked, over and over, and in different shifts: ‘Where is bin Laden?’ and ‘What were your plans?’- said a senior intelligence official with intimate knowledge of the interrogation.

Al-Libbi was caught Monday after a firefight with security forces near a town in northwestern Pakistan. President Bush hailed the arrest as a victory that removes a key enemy, and jubilant Pakistani officials said the capture will boost the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

The Libyan terror suspect, purportedly a close confidant of bin Laden’s, was Pakistan’s most-wanted man, accused of masterminding two 2003 assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf that left 17 others dead.

Information Minister Shaikh Rashid Ahmed confirmed yesterday that al-Libbi was in Pakistan’s custody and that he was being questioned. He declined to give details.

An intelligence official familiar with the investigation said U.S. officials were not present at the interrogation, but Pakistan had shared with them its preliminary findings.

Two days after al-Libbi’s arrest, security forces raided two homes in the northwestern tribal region of Bajor and arrested 11 terror suspects — three Uzbeks, an Afghan and seven Pakistanis. On Tuesday, police also arrested six Pakistanis, including two women, and seized weapons after a raid in an upscale residential area of the eastern city of Lahore.

Police officials denied reports either of the arrests were linked to information provided by al-Libbi, and said the Lahore operation appeared to be a family dispute.

Al-Libbi, who is thought to use at least five aliases, was behind only Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahri and bin Laden in the terror group’s hierarchy, U.S. counterterrorism officials said.

Commandos seized al-Libbi along with another foreigner Monday after a firefight outside the hardscrabble town of Mardan, about 30 miles from the northwestern city of Peshawar, Pakistani officials said. The arrests were announced Wednesday.

Witnesses said armed Pakistani agents — some disguised in burkas, the all-encompassing garment worn by women in conservative Islamic families — ambushed the two men as they rode a motorbike across a dusty graveyard on the outskirts of Mardan amid an exchange of gunfire.

The unidentified suspect was arrested there, but al-Libbi fled to a nearby private guest house, where he tried to hide.

‘I am a jihadi. Police are after me,’ witness Bakht Munir quoted al-Libbi as saying before he was tracked down by the commandos, who smoked him out of the guest house with tear gas and then led him away.

U.S. officials said the arrest was the most significant since the March 1, 2003, capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda’s No. 3 at the time, also in Pakistan.

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