Pakistan captures 'important' al-Qaida leader
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Officials say French national believed to have links with militant groups in Europe, may have played role in 9/11 attacks.
BERLIN – Pakistan has captured an “important” al-Qaida leader near the
Pakistan-Iran border, officials said on Wednesday.
The operation comes
amid criticism from the United States that Pakistan is not doing enough to fight
Pakistani officials said the captured al-Qaida
leader was Naamen Meziche, a French national of Algerian origin, who is believed
to have links with terrorist groups based in Europe.
He may have played a
role in the 9/11 attacks in the US.
Pakistan officials did not specify
when or where Meziche was taken into custody. They said he was the leader of a
group of 11 people who left Germany in 2009 to fight US-led forces in
Afghanistan. According to intelligence officers, Meziche was believed to be in
The Jerusalem Post learned at the March terrorism trial of al-Qaida
and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan terrorist Ahmad Wali Siddiqui that Meziche
went to Iran in 2009 and used his contacts in Tehran to further his anti-
Western terrorist activities.
According to Siddiqui, his fellow convicted
terrorist Rami Makanesi traveled with Meziche from Vienna to Tehran so as “to
not get caught.” Iran is believed to be harboring and assisting al-Qaida
operatives and high level terrorists.
Meziche played a significant role
in building a second cell in Hamburg to send Islamists to the Afghanistan and
Pakistan war theaters to kill American and Pakistani troops. He aided worshipers
from the Taiba (Al Quds) Mosque in Hamburg – the same mosque that served as an
ideological hub for the 9/11 attacks – to plan assaults that were to target
Europe’s economic infrastructure in 2010. Meziche, who spent many years in
Hamburg, is believed to have had contact with Mohammed Atta, one of the main
9/11 Hamburg-based terrorists, who flew an American Airlines plane into New
York’s World Trade Center.
Meziche worked closely with another al- Qaida
leader, Younis al-Mauritani, who was responsible for international operations,
Pakistani officials said.
Mauritani was captured by Pakistani authorities
last September. Meziche used Iran as a transport route to provide logistical
support for terrorist operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Secretary Leon Panetta said on June 7 during a trip to Kabul that stabilization
efforts in Afghanistan would remain difficult as long as terrorists had havens
in neighboring Pakistan, and that Washington was “reaching the limits” of its
patience with Islamabad.
US officials often describe Pakistan as an
unreliable partner in the war on terror and demand tougher action against
insurgent groups, especially those based in Pakistan’s volatile tribal regions
near the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan says it will not allow any
such havens inside its territory, and that it will pursue its own strategy
against Islamist groups.
Reuters contributed to this report.