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Bush Administration Hails Capture of al-Qaida Suspect - 2004-08-08


Bush administration officials are hailing the capture of a key al-Qaida suspect as further evidence of progress in the global war on terrorism.

U.S. and Pakistani officials describe Qari Saifullah Akhtar as a top al-Qaida operative who oversaw the group's terrorist operations in Pakistan. Speaking on CNN's Late Edition program, President Bush's counter-terrorism adviser, Frances Townsend, said the suspect's capture is significant.

"[The capture is] very important, particularly for Pakistan. He [Qari Saifullah Akhtar] is wanted in connection with the two assassination attempts on President [Pervez] Musharraf. He was also involved in the training camps in Afghanistan," said Mr. Townsend.

Pakistani authorities say they had believed Mr. Akhtar to be in Pakistan, until news of his arrest in Dubai.

Frances Townsend says the suspect's transfer to Pakistan demonstrates growing international cooperation in the war on terrorism, a goal she says President Bush has worked diligently to achieve.

"We have spent a lot of time investing in those relationships," he said. "Three years ago, you would not have believed that we could have this sort of cooperation from Pakistan on counter-terrorism. They were not our strongest partners. And now they really have come around. Al-Qaida is not only a threat to the United States, it is also a threat to President Musharraf. Likewise, in Saudi Arabia we are seeing unprecedented cooperation."

Pakistani officials say more than a dozen suspected al-Qaida militants have been arrested within their borders in recent weeks. The prisoners reportedly include Tanzanian-born Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

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