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Wanted al-Qaida Leader Arrested in Pakistan - 2003-03-01

Authorities in Pakistan say they have arrested one of America's most wanted al-Qaida leaders.

Senior Pakistani government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was among three people detained. They say he was picked up along with a Pakistani and a man of Middle Eastern origin from a house in Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital.

Speaking to VOA, federal Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat confirmed the arrests, but he declined to identify the detainees. "Certainly, the person who is arrested is a senior al-Qaida activist in Pakistan, who is wanted and who has been involved in many subversive activities in the past," he said.

U.S. officials believe Kuwaiti-born Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was a key figure in planning the September 11, 2001, terror strikes on U.S. cities, blamed on the al-Qaida terrorist network. He is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for his alleged involvement in a conspiracy to bomb commercial airliners in 1995. Washington was offering $25 million for information leading to his arrest.

Interior Minister Hayat describes the arrests as a major breakthrough in the hunt for al-Qaida fugitives in Pakistan.