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US Wants Pakistan to Turn Over Al-Qaida Suspect - 2002-09-15

The Bush Administration says it wants custody of an al-Qaida suspect believed to be an organizer of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 people in the United States.

Ramzi Binalshibh was arrested last week on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, along with 11 other suspected members of the al-Qaida terrorist organization.

The alleged followers of Osama bin Laden had been tracked in a joint U.S.-Pakistani intelligence operation.

Appearing on the ABC television program This Week, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezz`a Rice said the administration wants Pakistan to turn Mr. Binalshibh over to the United States for questioning.

Ms. Rice said he may be helpful in the war against terrorism in the way that other al-Qaida insiders have been.

"They may know about other future plots that may be planned," she said. "And so this is really a wonderful breakthrough in the war on terror. And really a great victory for the cooperation of Pakistan as well." Ms. Rice did not confirm reports that five alleged al-Qaida members arrested last week in New York state were awaiting the delivery of a bomb. "What we do know is that these people were apparently trained in the camps in Afghanistan, that they had the benefit of that training and therefore could benefit al-Qaida," she said. "The extent of their involvement is something that will unfold in the case." Ms. Rice called the arrests a matter to be sorted out by law enforcement.

President Bush this weekend praised the captures of the five alleged al-Qaida followers and Ramzi Binalshibh, saying that "one by one, we are hunting the killers down." Ms. Rice agreed.

"I can just assure the American people that what they have just seen in Pakistan, what they have just seen in Buffalo, is evidence of a much bigger effort to break up and disrupt these cells," Ms. Rice said.

Pakistani officials reportedly say they are prepared to send Ramzi Binalshib and the others captured with him abroad for trial. But the officials say they have made no decision on where the suspects will go. The United States and Germany have charged him in connection with the September 11 attacks.