Afghan and US forces arrest key al-Qaida member in southeast Afghanistan

Monday, November 13th 2006, 6:14 am
By: News On 6

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ U.S. and Afghan forces have arrested a senior al-Qaida member in southeastern Afghanistan, a provincial police chief said Monday, confirming a report last week by coalition officials.

The troops detained four Afghans, an Arab and a Pakistani on Thursday in the city of Khost, said Mohammad Ayub, the provincial police chief.

Ayub said he could not confirm a report in the Pakistani daily, The News, that one of the detainees was Abu Nasir al-Qahtani, one of four Arab al-Qaida operatives who escaped from the U.S. prison in Bagram in July 2005.

``What I can tell you is that he is an important al-Qaida member,'' Ayub said.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick on Monday declined to identify or confirm the name of the detainee.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan last week said that a ``known al-Qaida terrorist'' and five other extremists were arrested on Nov. 6 near Khost. It said the detainee has ``known ties to al-Qaida leadership,'' and was detained with Saudi and Pakistani nationals.

Four al-Qaida operatives last year broke out of the detention facility in Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, fleeing through barbed wire stockades in the first escape from the compound since the American military took over the former Soviet air base.

Afghan police had identified the four as Abdullah from Syria, Mohammed al-Qatari from Saudi Arabia, Mahmood Ahmad from Kuwait, and Abulbakar Mohammed Hassan from Libya. Some of these names were aliases.

The Pentagon later identified one of the four fugitives as Omar al-Farouq _ one of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants in Southeast Asia.