A few days ago a member of the Saudi Arabia embassy staff in Pakistan was murdered thanks to two people on a motorcyle. It was a direct Al Qaeda hit upon an individual who was probably a member of the Saudi intelligence community. Today we have the news that a key member of Al Qaeda has been arrested in Pakistan. The BBC has the story and background of the man arrested by the Pakistanis.
Mohammed Ali Qasim, also known as Abu Suhaib al-Makki, had been working under al-Qaeda leaders along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, a statement said.
The army said his arrest was a “major development in unravelling the al-Qaeda network operating in the region”.
Officials later told the BBC that Qasim was key courier between Osama Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
However, security officials told the BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan that Qasim was arrested in Karachi’s central Gulshan-e-Iqbal district on 4 May.
He had a satellite phone and a tracking device, which they said had yielded new information about al-Qaeda’s activities in the region.
Qasim moved around Pakistan to avoid detection, living in Abbottabad – where Bin Laden was found – Faisalabad, Peshawar and Karachi.
He was involved in planning attacks on Saudi interests in Pakistan, and had ordered retaliatory strikes following Bin Laden’s death, the officials added. It is not known if these included the killing on Monday of Hassan al-Khatani, a security official at the Saudi consulate in Karachi.
Another security official told Reuters news agency that Qasim was between 35 and 40 years old and had been living in Karachi with his three children and wife “for some time”.
“He gave some information about movements of some people,” he said. “We are evaluating that information and planning actions.”
Qasim was allegedly close to Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent who is alleged to be a leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a senior al-Qaeda operative who was arrested in Karachi in 2002.
It is indeed interesting to not that this particular operative had been living in Karachi for some time. The presence of Al Qaeda is interesting because Karachi was also the scene of the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. It might also explain why there has been an upsurge of militancy in Karachi. Regardless, it looks like the Pakistanis were well aware of these people hiding in Pakistan and that they had been willing to shelter them whilst playing a double game with the West, and this is despite the more than 35,000 who had been victims of murder-suicide attacks.