Thu, Jan 27, 2005 - Page 5 News List

US snares suspected embassy bomber

CAUGHT Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian thought responsible for the killing of hundreds in eastern Africa, was handed over to US officials some months ago


A Tanzanian al-Qaeda operative arrested in Pakistan in July for his alleged role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in east Africa that killed more than 200 people has been handed over to US officials and flown out of the country, security officials said

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who was on the FBI list of most-wanted terrorists, was moved out of Pakistan months ago, but the security officials said they don't know where he was taken. The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.

Ghailani, believed to be between 30 and 34, has been indicted in New York for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. Twelve Americans were among the 219 people killed.

He was captured by Pakistani intelligence agents in July after a shootout in the eastern city of Gujrat. About 15 other people, including women and children, were arrested with him, but it is unclear what happened to them.

Until Tuesday, officials had refused to provide any information on the whereabouts of Ghailani, who had a US$5 million bounty on his head.

Ghailani was turned over to the US months ago, a senior security official said on Tuesday. He would not say whether Ghailani had been shifted to the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Another security official said Ghailani was handed over to the US officials because he had committed "a heinous crime against them in Africa."

Ghailani was captured on a tip given to Pakistani officials by Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a Pakistani and alleged al-Qaeda computer expert, who was arrested about two weeks before him in the eastern city of Lahore.

Information recovered from the suspects' computers allegedly included terrorist surveillance of possible targets for attack in the US and Britain and prompted a US terror warning in August.

A lawyer for Khan has filed a petition with the Pakistani High Court in Lahore demanding the government divulge where he's detained and on what charges. Neither the lawyer, Babar Awan, nor Khan's family have seen him since his arrest.

According to Awan, the court gave the government until Feb. 11 to explain the charges and said there would be no further adjournment in the case.

Pakistan, which became a key ally of the US in its war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, has arrested more than 600 al-Qaeda suspects from different parts of the country.

They include al-Qaeda No.3 leader, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was arrested in March 2003 near Islamabad. Almost all the foreign suspects, including Mohammed, were later handed over to US officials. Many are detained at Guantanamo Bay, where about 550 prisoners from 42 countries swept up in the US-led war on terrorism are still detained without charge.

Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri remain at large. They are still suspected to be hiding in the rugged border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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