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Pakistan Hands Over al-Qaida Suspects to US - 2002-09-16

Pakistan has handed over five detained al-Qaida suspects to American authorities. Ramzi Bin al Shibh, an alleged planner of last year's terror attacks on the United States, is among them.

Pakistani officials say Mr. Bin al Shibh and four others have been flown out of the country to an undisclosed location. The al-Qaida suspects along with several other colleagues were captured in raids last week in the southern city of Karachi.

Mr. Bin al Shibh is said to have been a prominent member of the al-Qaida cell in Hamburg, Germany, that planned and carried out the September 11 deadly attacks against U.S. cities.

U.S. officials accuse the 30-year old Yemeni national of have played an important role in planning the attacks on the United States. He is also believed to have intended to be the 20th hijacker in the attacks against U-S cities but he could not get an entry visa into the United States.

The arrest of Mr. Bin al Shibh has raised the possibility that more senior al-Qaida fugitives could be hiding in Pakistan. A Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan says his country is making all efforts to find these fugitives.

"The Pakistani forces are relentlessly pursuing these people and where ever they [are] they will not be allowed to take refuge anywhere and they would be caught sooner or later," he said.

The capture of Mr. Bin al Shibh is seen as a major development in the U.S. led efforts to destroy the al-Qaida terrorist network.

In the past year, Pakistan has detained a large number of suspected al-Qaida militants who have managed to flee the American-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Some of them have been extradited to the United States, including Abu Zubaydah, a key lieutenant of al-Qaida leader Osma bin Laden.