The arrest of a man thought to be the number three leader of the al-Qaida network may give Pakistani and U.S. investigators key information about the terror group, but so far there is no indication they are any closer to the capture of its leader, Osama bin Laden.
|Pakistan's Interior Ministry handout photo, shows senior al-Qaida suspect Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Wednesday, May 4, 2005 in Islamabad|
Pakistani officials say this week's arrest of Abu Faraj al-Libbi is a breakthrough for the country's campaign against the terror group, al-Qaida.
The Libyan is considered a key link between al-Qaida and domestic extremists who oppose Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
An independent political analyst in Pakistan Ayaz Amir, says the alleged number-three al-Qaida leader could help Pakistan's security forces penetrate the local terrorist networks.
"One would presume that he would have vital information, things like safe houses, other agents, communications," he said.
Since his arrest earlier this week, security forces have arrested about two dozen terrorist suspects across Pakistan.
Al-Libbi is accused of having a role in two assassination attempts on Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, in 2003.
He allegedly was once Osama bin Laden's personal assistant and recently emerged as a top commander for al-Qaida's global operations.
President Bush hailed his arrest and praised Pakistan's counter-terrorism operations.
But experts here are downplaying expectations that al-Libbi's capture will lead to bin Laden's arrest. Washington and its allies has been hunting bin Laden since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States carried out by al-Qaida. He evaded capture after the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan, where he was based, and has since managed to elude U.S., Pakistani, and Afghan troops.
Security experts say the hunt for bin Laden has weakened the ability of al-Qaida leaders to communicate with each other. Analyst Ayaz Amir says it is unlikely al-Libbi was able to maintain close links with al-Qaida's top leaders.
"I doubt if there would be a secure communication link between al-Libbi and Osama bin Laden," he said. "I cannot imagine electronic communications between them, given the American capability to intercept all communications."
Pakistan's military says al-Qaida's network in the country has been dismantled and its leaders isolated.
Since 2001, more than 500 suspected terrorists and their supporters have been captured in Pakistan, including some of Osama bin Laden's top advisors.