updated 1/29/2004 5:06:09 PM ET 2004-01-29T22:06:09

The last member of a group of Yemeni-Americans from New York state sought by U.S. authorities for attending an al-Qaeda training camp is in custody in Yemen, a senior security official said Thursday.

Jaber Elbaneh was arrested several months ago as part of Yemen’s fight against terrorism, the official said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

Word of Elbaneh’s arrest was reported earlier Thursday by The New York Times. The newspaper said negotiations were under way for extradition.

FBI officials in Buffalo, N.Y., told The Associated Press on Thursday they had not been told of Elbaneh’s arrest.

“He is still treated as a fugitive by the FBI,” spokesman Paul Moskal said. “People who are in custody are removed from fugitive status.”

For the family, 'it's a relief'
Unconfirmed reports of Elbaneh’s arrest have circulated since early December. Family members said they have been trying to learn the truth by calling friends and family in Yemen.

Mohamed Albanna, an uncle who lives in Lackawanna, N.Y., said some relatives believed Elbaneh surrendered to Yemeni authorities. U.S. authorities offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

“If and when it’s confirmed, at least it’s a relief that we finally know where he is,” the uncle told the AP. “If it is true that he turned himself in ... at least we know that he is safe and in the hands of the government, rather than $5 million roaming around on his head.”

The Yemeni security official said the arrest came as a result of the investigation of Fawaz al-Rabeiee, another Yemeni wanted by the United States.

The official would not provide further details but said Yemen had seven other terrorist suspects in custody. He declined to identify them.

Lackawanna Six
In a U.S. court last year, six Yemeni-Americans from Lackawanna pleaded guilty to aiding a terrorist organization by undergoing training in 2001 in a camp in Afghanistan run by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organization. Al-Qaida is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

In their pleas, all six described weapons and explosives training and a speech by bin Laden to trainees about men on a mission to attack America.

Unlike the others, Elbaneh never returned to Lackawanna after his training in the al-Qaida camp, investigators said.

U.S. authorities said there was no evidence that the Lackawanna group was involved in planning or participated in any terrorist act.

Defense lawyers for the Lackawanna Six have said the men were victims of high-pressure recruiters who appealed to their sense of religious duty in persuading them to seek military-style training.

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