Pakistan Army Says It Has Al Qaeda's Global Operations Chief in Custody

Article excerpt

Pakistan's Army says it has captured Sheikh Younis al-Mauritani, a senior Al Qaeda leader known as the group's global operations chief.

Pakistan's Army says it has captured Sheikh Younis al-Mauritani, a senior Al Qaeda leader also known as the group's "foreign minister," who was linked to last year's foiled terror plot in Europe.

In a press statement, the Army said Mr. Mauritani had plans to target US economic interests including gas and oil pipelines, power generating dams, and oil tankers by using explosive-laden boats in international waters.

His arrest, alongside other senior operatives Abdul Ghaffar al- Shami and Messara al-Shami from the southwestern city of Quetta, was called "another fatal blow" to Al Qaeda by the Army, and could be a sign of the Pakistan Army's desire to mend relations with the US following the Osama bin Laden raid.

In its press statement, the Army highlighted the "strong, historic intelligence relationship" between Pakistan and the US that resulted in the successful capture of Mauritani, adding: "The intimate cooperation between Pakistan and United States Intelligence agencies has resulted into prevention of number of high profile terrorist acts not only inside Pakistan/United States but elsewhere also in world."

The operation, which follows the killing of Al Qaeda second in command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman in a drone attack last week, may also signal a return to the relationship of the early 2000s when Pakistan handed over a string of high-profile Al Qaeda operatives to the US, according to Pakistani military analyst Ayesha Siddiqa.

As the US deadline for withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 draws near, she argues, the Pakistani security establishment may be willing to give up Al Qaeda figures in exchange for getting the Afghan Taliban, with whom it has maintained good relations, a seat at the negotiating table.

"We have told the Americans we will capture Al Qaeda wherever we find them. If the Americans are worried about terrorism coming from this region then this gives them this peace of mind. …