Pakistan has captured an alleged al-Qaida ringleader wanted by the United States for the 1998 attacks on its embassies in East Africa. Authorities are hoping the arrest will lead to other key al-Qaida figures.
Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat told VOA late Thursday night that key al-Qaida suspect Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was among a group of alleged terrorists arrested Sunday.
Acting on a tip-off, police arrested Ghailani along with his Uzbek wife and over a dozen other alleged terrorists, following a 14-hour gun battle in the central Pakistan town of Gujrat.
Ghailani was indicted in U.S. court in 1998 for his alleged role in the bombings that year of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed more than 200 people. He is on the FBI's list of most wanted terror suspects and carries a $5 million bounty on his head.
Mr. Hayat says Pakistan will consider extraditing the 30-year-old Tanzanian, but only after local legal processes are complete.
"Once we conclusively satisfy our own requirements, only then shall we be able to conceede to or consider the requests of the United States for handing him over," he said.
Mr. Hayat says the arrest is a major success in the war against terrorism and will likely lead to the discovery of other al-Qaida leaders, both in Pakistan and abroad.
"As we have seen in the past, one arrest has led to other arrests and the dismantling of other networks," he said.
He said police have still not determined when Ghailani entered Pakistan, but that he had been living in Gujrat for a month and a half before his arrest there.
Major al-Qaida figures, including the group's leader Osama bin Laden, are widely believed to be hiding in Pakistan or in neighboring Afghanistan, which previously provided sanctuary for the network.