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Top al-Qaida Leader Captured - 2002-11-21

U.S. officials are confirming the capture of a top al-Qaida leader, believed to be the group's chief of operations in the Gulf region.

The al-Qaida leader is identified as Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, captured earlier this month in an undisclosed country. U.S. officials say he is now being held by American authorities at an undisclosed location where he is being interrogated.

The officials describe his detention as a serious blow to al-Qaida operations and a very significant development in the global war on terrorism.

The officials, speaking to VOA on condition of anonymity, say Mr. al-Nashiri is suspected of involvement in the bloody 1998 bomb attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa as well as the deadly bomb attack two years ago against the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen.

The officials describe him as "ruthless" and say Mr. al-Nashiri is considered an expert in terrorist weapons, including explosives. They say he was also involved in training other al-Qaida operatives.

He is the highest-ranking al-Qaida operative captured since the March arrest in Pakistan of Abu Zubaydah, a top aide to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. officials recently disclosed another senior al-Qaida operative had been caught but until now his identity was unknown. His capture is the latest success in the U.S. led effort to disrupt al-Qaida operations.

Earlier this month, several suspected al-Qaida operatives were killed in Yemen when the vehicle they were riding in was hit by a missile fired from an unmanned U.S. Predator spy plane. The aircraft was reportedly operated by the Central Intelligence Agency and launched from a base in Djibouti.