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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Top al-Qaeda suspect captured
Pakistani officers arrest an al-Qaeda suspect
Five suspects were arrested - and two killed - in Karachi
One of the key suspects in the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington last year has been arrested in Pakistan.

Yemeni national Ramzi Binalshibh, who recently claimed to have been one of the organisers of the attack, was captured after a three-hour gun battle at an apartment building in Karachi.

FBI file photo of Ramzi Binalshibh
Ramzi Binalshibh is alleged to have helped fund the hijackers
Mr Binalshibh, who is said to have shared the Hamburg flat where the attacks were planned with suspected hijack ringleader Mohammed Atta, is on the FBI's most wanted list and has a $25m bounty on his head.

He is now reported to be undergoing interrogation by the Pakistani police.

"It's a very sensitive issue," said one US official, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Phone-call interception

Mr Binalshibh, 30, was detained on Wednesday - the first anniversary of the 11 September attacks - when the flat where he was staying was raided by Pakistani police commandos, supported by US intelligence officers.

Bullet-scarred walls of the Karachi apartment building
The gun battle was one of the most fierce in recent years
The operation was planned after US intelligence agents intercepted a satellite phone call from the flat, Pakistani security sources said.

The raid - which prompted one of the fiercest gun battles in Karachi for several years - was reported on Wednesday, but it was not until three days later that an al-Qaeda connection was confirmed.

Correspondents said it was significant that the confirmation came from US officials, rather than from Pakistan.

The arrests were made after police surrounded the building in southern Karachi - an area which is home to many foreign businessmen.

When officers police stormed the flat used by suspected al-Qaeda members, a gunfight broke out, which spilled out on to nearby rooftops.

Two suspects were killed, and the remaining five surrendered, including Mr Binalshibh.

Six police officers were injured, two of them critically.

US officials said that no Americans were wounded during the operation, which led to the recovery of heavy weapons and various items of communications equipment from the building.

Al-Qaeda threats

The BBC correspondent in Islamabad, Susannah Price, said the arrests are a major coup, both for the Pakistani authorities and the American investigators.

At the same time, they demonstrate that members of al-Qaeda are present, not just in remote areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but in Karachi - Pakistan's largest city.

Police at the shoot-out in Karachi
Pakistani police led the raid, but the al-Qaeda connection was confirmed by the US
Mr Binalshibh challenged the US authorities to find him in a pre-recorded interview broadcast by the Arab TV network al-Jazeera on Thursday.

Together with another al-Qaeda suspect, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he explained how the group operated and how the 11 September attacks had been planned.

They said in the interview that Osama Bin Laden had been involved in planning the attacks, and that Mr Binashibh had been the co-ordinator of what was referred to as "Holy Tuesday".

Visa refusals

Mr Binalshibh tried to enrol at a US flying school, but was repeatedly refused a US visa.

Investigators believe he had originally been picked to be one of the leaders of the suicide attacks, but instead handled logistics and financial matters for the al-Qaeda members who were allowed into the US.

He posed as Atta's girlfriend in Germany when the two communicated through e-mails.

The German authorities have also issued a warrant for Mr Binalshibh's arrest, for membership of a terrorist organisation.

In a separate development, US officials say five men of Yemeni origin, believed to be US citizens, have been arrested in Lackawanna, near Buffalo in upper New York state, on suspicion of operating as a terrorist cell.

They are suspected of attending a training camp linked to Osama Bin Laden.

However, officials say there is no evidence the men were planning to carry out any attacks.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"Among those detained was one of the world's most wanted men"
The BBC's Susannah Price reports from Islamabad
"This is a major coup for the Pakistani authorities"

Key stories

European probe


See also:

14 Sep 02 | South Asia
14 Sep 02 | South Asia
14 Sep 02 | Europe
08 Sep 02 | Middle East
18 Jan 02 | Americas
10 Oct 01 | Middle East
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