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IN THE NEWS - March 8, 2003: Arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - 2003-03-07


This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, In the News.

Last Saturday, Pakistani and American intelligence officials arrested a top al-Qaeda leader. They seized Khalid Shaikh Mohammed at a home in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

American officials took the al-Qaida operations chief for questioning somewhere outside Pakistan.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is third in the organization, behind Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri. American officials have connected Mister Mohammed to al Qaeda groups in Asia, Europe and the United States.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is believed to have planned the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September eleventh, two-thousand-one. The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed three-thousand people. Mister Mohammed spent time with some of the September eleventh hijackers and has taken credit for organizing the attacks.

Officials also have linked him to other attacks and plots. One is the nineteen-ninety-three bombing of the World Trade Center. Another is a failed plot two years later to destroy eleven American passenger planes over the Pacific Ocean.

Mister Mohammed has also been linked to the bombing in Bali last year, and the bombing of a Jewish holy place in Tunisia. And experts on al Qaeda say he ordered the killing early last year of American reporter Daniel Pearl.

The American State Department offered twenty-five-million dollars for information leading to the arrest of Mister Mohammed.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had almost been captured last week in Quetta, Pakistan. Officials there arrested a suspected al-Qaeda member, but said Mister Mohammed had escaped. Officials say they used the captured suspect to locate him. They found Mister Mohammed at the home of Ahmed Abdul Qadoos. Mister Qadoos is a member of Jamaat Islami, Pakistan's largest religious political party.

Officials identified a third man arrested as a Saudi named Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi. He is believed to have paid some of the September eleventh hijackers.

The United States made attempts to seize Mister Mohammed after the September eleventh attacks. Intelligence officials said they continued to receive information about him from his ongoing communication with al-Qaeda members around the world.

In recent weeks, officials are said to have gotten useful information about his activities from captured suspects. Intelligence officials said they learned that Mister Mohammed was planning attacks on bridges, fuel stations and hotels in New York and Washington.

That information led the Bush administration to raise the terrorism danger level in the United States last month. The danger level was reduced last week, the day before the arrest of Mister Mohammed.

American officials said the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed could lead to others, possibly including Osama bin Laden. But they said they are concerned that the arrest could also lead to more al Qaeda violence.

This VOA Special English program, In the News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

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