U.S. officials think they have taken into custody a senior al-Qaida terrorist leader named Abu Zubaydah. But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will not confirm his capture.
Mr. Rumsfeld said Abu Zubaydah is a close associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, possibly the number two man in the terrorist organization.
But other than acknowledging Mr. Zubaydah's importance, the U.S. defense secretary will not confirm his capture. He told reporters it will not help the anti-terror campaign to disclose which individuals are in U.S. custody. "If you start down that road," he said, "it just seems to me it tells other people much more than one would want to tell them."
Pentagon sources said U.S. officials are reluctant to confirm his capture because it could prompt other al-Qaida operatives to flee their current hiding places.
Mr. Zubaydah is considered a key al-Qaida attack planner and is believed to have information about the location of other al-Qaida leaders, possibly including Osama bin Laden.
U.S. officials said a man thought to be Mr. Zubaydah was wounded and detained in Pakistan last week in a raid on a suspected al-Qaida compound, which was carried out by Pakistani authorities with U.S. support.
His present whereabouts have not been disclosed. But it is likely he will be sent to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to join some 300 al-Qaida and Taleban detainees being held there.