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Last Updated: Monday, 9 May, 2005, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Swoop nets 24 after Libyan arrest
Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao
Mr Sherpao's view of Libbi's importance has been questioned
Pakistan says its security agencies have arrested 24 alleged Islamic militants since the detention of al-Qaeda suspect Abu Faraj al-Libbi.

Interior minister Aftab Sherpao said the arrests were made countrywide but not all were linked to the Libyan.

Mr Sherpao said Libbi's arrest last week was a significant breakthrough.

However, some European intelligence experts have now said Libbi was not al-Qaeda's third in command as claimed but only a middle-ranking operative.


Mr Sherpao said the arrests of local and foreign militants were made in the tribal region of South Waziristan, Lahore and a number of other parts of the country.

Mr Sherpao said al-Qaeda's operation in the country was more complex than many people had initially thought.

Security agencies, he said, have been piecing together details of al-Qaeda's Pakistani network on the basis of information gathered by interrogating Libbi and other suspected militants arrested earlier.

Abu Faraj al-Libbi was captured after a clash in north-western Pakistan early last week, officials said.

'Tea maker'

Mr Sherpao said since the start of the anti-terror campaign more than three years ago, Pakistani authorities had smashed nearly 20 different groups of Islamic extremists, the last being operated by Libbi.

Omar Saeed Sheikh, February 2002
Abu Zubaydah, Faisalabad, March 2002
Ramzi Binalshibh, Karachi, September 2002
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, above, Rawalpindi, March 2003
Naeem Noor Khan, Lahore, July 2004
Khalfan Ghailani, July 2004, Gujrat
Amjad Hussain Farooqi (shot dead in September 2004)
Abu Faraj al-Libbi, May 2005

He said this was a major achievement but also warned against complacency.

Mr Sherpao said there were many foreign militants still hiding in the country and they continued to pose a serious threat.

Their arrest or elimination, he said, remained a high priority for the Pakistani authorities.

However, Pakistan's evaluation of Libbi's significance has been challenged by some European intelligence experts.

French expert Jean-Charles Brisard told Britain's Sunday Times: "Al-Libbi is just a middle-level leader. Pakistan and US authorities have completely overestimated his role and importance.

"He was never more than a regional facilitator between al-Qaeda and local Pakistani Islamic groups."

Mr Brisard said he was not as important as another Libyan - Anas al-Liby - who is on an FBI wanted list in connection with 1998's East African embassy bombings.

Some believe US intelligence may have initially confused the two.

When asked about Libbi, an alleged former associate of Osama Bin Laden told the Sunday Times: "What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying."

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