Pakistan captures 'important' al-Qaida leader

Officials say French national believed to have links with militant groups in Europe, may have played role in 9/11 attacks.

Pakistani Army soldiers along Afghan border 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Pakistani Army soldiers along Afghan border 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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 Islamist insurgency.
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 Iran.
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.
US Defense 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.