Pakistani Corps Commander Peshawar Safdar Hussain told reporters that his forces had "busted the biggest Al-Qaeda base in the tribal zone of North Waziristan and recovered 15 truckloads of arms and ammunition".
The AP reportsthat ethnic tensions are dividing Al Qaeda in Afghanistan/Pakistan:
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - American and Pakistani intelligence agents are
exploiting a growing rift between Arab members of al-Qaida and their
Central Asian allies, a fissure that’s tearing at the network of
Islamic extremists as militants compete for scarce hideouts, weapons
and financial resources, counterterrorism officials say.
The rivalry may have contributed to the arrest
last week of one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants, a Libyan
described as al-Qaida’s No. 3 and known to have had differences with
Uzbeks. Captured Uzbek, Chechen and Tajik suspects have been giving up
information about the movements of Arab al-Qaida militants in recent
months, four Pakistani intelligence agents told The Associated Press,
leading to a series of successful raids and arrests.
push comes to shove, the Uzbeks are going to stick together, and the
Arabs are going to stick together,” said Kenneth Katzman, a terrorism
expert with the Congressional Research Service in Washington. “I think
the Uzbek guerrillas have had no home. Some of this could be a battle
The BBC has more on the controversial capture of al-Libbi, the No. 3. However inconsequential, the follow-up to his arrest is encouraging:
Pakistan says its security agencies have arrested 24
alleged Islamic militants since the detention of al-Qaeda suspect Abu
Interior minister Aftab Sherpao said the arrests were made countrywide but not all were linked to the Libyan.
Mr Sherpao said Libbi's arrest last week was a significant breakthrough.
However, some European intelligence experts have now
said Libbi was not al-Qaeda's third in command as claimed but only a
Well, the Pakistanis are sticking to their story, anyway.
And to round out the bad news day for Al Qaeda, the Washington Times reports that Iraq now represents Al Qaeda's last stand. Lots of reaction at Memeorandum.
Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the man described as number three in Al Qaeda, was arrested in Pakistan. This may be a big deal because the arrest dovetails nicely with comments made by a US General just a few weeks ago.
Lt. Gen. David W.
Barno, the departing US commander in Afghanistan, had told the Times on April 26 (and in earlier comments on April 19) that the US and Pakistan were engaged in joint training and that Pakistan was planning a major effort against Al Qaeda. Pakistan denied everything.
Yet here we are, weeks later - a major arrest, and other foreigners arrested as well:
On Thursday the Pakistani authorities said they had
arrested a number of other al-Qaeda suspects days after the capture of
The suspects were said to have been arrested in raids in
the north-western Bajaur tribal belt, near the Afghan border on
Wednesday. It is not known whether the new arrests are linked to Libbi.
How important was Libbi? The Times comments on grade inflation:
But some intelligence officials in Europe expressed surprise at
hearing Mr. Libbi described as Al Qaeda's third-highest leader,
pointing out that he does not figure on the F.B.I.'s most-wanted list.
There is another Qaeda operative on the list with a similar name,
Abu al-Liby, also a Libyan, who was indicted for an "operational role"
in the bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in August
1998. (The surname, in its various transliterations, means simply the
American officials, when asked about the doubts, dismissed the idea
that they had confused the Libyans, saying they know Mr. Liby is on the
list, and reaffirming the importance of Mr. Libbi. To be included on
the F.B.I.'s most wanted list, they noted, a terrorist must have been
indicted by a federal grand jury, which Mr. Libbi has not.
Another senior counterterrorism official based in Europe, who spoke
on condition of anonymity, confirmed the Americans' version, saying Mr.
Libbi had indeed become an important operational commander of Al Qaeda.
He had worked directly with Mr. Mohammed, the official said, and
assumed many of Mr. Mohammed's responsibilities in Pakistan after the
latter's arrest. "He's someone we have been watching closely for a
while now," the official said.
Let's add this - last fall, the Daily Telegraph and the Council on Foreign Relations described him as the number three (here are twolinks referencing the CFR, but I can't find their original page.)
Here is a regional map for those inclined. The arrest was made near Mardan, which is north of the blue "R" in Peshawar. Cherat, where the joint training reported by Gen. Barno allegedly took place, is south of the "R". And Waziristan is to the south and west of the city of Peshawar, so this arrest was not in that area.
When last we checked in on Waziristan, Osama was on the run in drag. Now, a story has developed that is big enough to make the Times:
KABUL, Afghanistan, April, 26 - Americans have been training
Pakistanis in night flying and airborne assault tactics to combat
foreign and local fighters in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the
Afghan border, the United States commander here, Lt. Gen. David W.
Barno, said Tuesday in an interview.
It is the first time the American military has acknowledged the
training. The presence of American troops in Pakistan is regarded as
General Barno said he had visited the Special Services Group
headquarters at Cherat, near the Pakistani city of Peshawar, on
Saturday and watched a display by the units trained by the Americans in
their new Bell 4 helicopters.
Of course, this is all very sensitive, so perhaps General Barno should not believe his own lying eyes:
Pakistan's chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, said
there were no American military trainers at Cherat and that General
Barno had probably been referring to joint military exercises between
the two countries.
"The Pakistan Army has been training with many countries of the
world," General Sultan said in a telephone interview. "We have also
been conducting joint military training with the U.S. Army many a time
earlier. They benefit from each other's experience. They learn from
each other. That's what has been happening, and nothing else."
The comments came as the Pakistani Army is gearing up to go into
what is considered one of the last redoubts of Al Qaeda and foreign
fighters, the tribal area of North Waziristan near the border with
Afghanistan. Last year the Pakistani military moved against foreign
militants in South Waziristan, killing some 300 fighters and losing
about the same number of their own soldiers.
The remnants of the foreign and local militants made their way into
North Waziristan. According to some reports, the Qaeda leader, Osama
bin Laden, and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri may also be in the region.
"They are working this hard," General Barno said of the Pakistani
military. "It's too early to say that there is a new offensive, and I
don't know what direction this is going to take, but there is no
question, from the vice chief of the Army staff down, that they very
much intend to determine how to best get at the enemy."
General Barno, who leaves next month after 18 months in Afghanistan,
said Pakistan had successfully disrupted militants financed by Al Qaeda
in South Waziristan...
While we enjoyed the holiday, CNN reported that the Pakistan military was suspending operations in South Waziristan. Hmmph - they were supposed to bag Osama just before the election.
The White House assures us that this announcement does not reflect diminished Pakistani committment to the war on terror (McClellan here). Since Musharaff, leader of Pakistan, will be meeting with Bush at the White House on Dec. 4, maybe they are serious - it seems odd that Musharaff would announce this and then come to Washington just so he could get his arm twisted. Then again, maybe he is hoping to be enticed and incentivised. We will have to see what sort of agreements and aid packages are announced, and compare that with the pre-meeting speculation.
Stage set for final showdown
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - A recent report by US think-tank Strategic Forecasting suggested that since "sovereignty" had now been transferred to Iraq, the United States would give its full attention to the problem of al-Qaeda fugitives in Pakistan's rugged tribal areas. Already this year, at the instigation of Washington, the Pakistani army has launched two military offensives into South Waziristan to track down foreign elements, with marginal success.
All signs now point to another offensive, but this time Islamabad and Washington have agreed that US troops stationed across the border in Afghanistan will take an active part in the action on Pakistani soil, rather than wait for suspects to be flushed out into their waiting arms. Similarly, Pakistani troops will be able to engage in hot-pursuit operations into Afghan territory.
In its single most important strike yet in the tribal areas, the Pakistani army in mid-June killed former Taliban commander Nek Mohammed, a key facilitator for al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Afghan resistance in the tribal areas. The United States, however, played a vital role in this operation by tracking down Nek through his mobile-telephone calls, and there is even some suggestion that the US in fact launched the missiles that killed Nek and a few others in a house near Wana, the provincial capital of South Waziristan...