Pakistan said Friday it will only consider extraditing a senior al-Qaida suspect after its own interrogation of the man is complete, while top government officials said the arrest showed Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terror network was crumbling.
A top Pakistani security official told The Associated Press the information that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was providing to his interrogators has already been shared with American intelligence, and that experts had begun to scour computer hard drives and diskettes found during his arrest.
Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat said the arrest was a “great blow to the al-Qaida” network of Osama bin Laden, but refused to say whether Ghailani had any knowledge of the terror leader’s whereabouts.
Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the rugged mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, though there is no hard evidence of his location.
“Pakistan is determined to flush out terrorists from its soil and dismantle their network definitively,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said, in reference to al-Qaida. “The latest arrests indicate that the network is crumbling down.”
Ghailani, one of the FBIs 22 most wanted terrorists and a man with a $25 million bounty on his head, has been indicted in the Southern District of New York for his alleged role in the 1998 twin U.S. embassy bombings, which killed more than 200 people, including 12 Americans. He could face the death penalty.
Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Rauf Chaudhry said his government had not yet received any request from Washington for Ghailani’s extradition.
“So far, they have not made any such request, but we are expecting it,” he said.
He said Pakistan would consider extradition: “But, first we would like to interrogate him thoroughly to check his links with other people in Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, Tanzanian police spokesman Ernest Saria said his country had not yet decided whether to seek custody of Ghailani or clear his extradition to America.
Ghailani’s arrest on Sunday after an intense 12-hour firefight in the eastern city of Gujrat ended a six-year odyssey that began when he boarded a Kenyan Airways flight to the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, leaving Africa before bombs exploded nearly simultaneously in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.
Until his arrest, that was the last known sighting of the baby-faced and slightly built explosives expert, believed to be about 30 years old.
The security official said he did not believe the $25 million reward would be paid, as the information that led to Ghailani’s capture came from a Pakistani terror suspect already under interrogation in a separate case. The man has not been identified.
He denied that American intelligence agencies were involved in the sting that netted Ghailani.
“We have shared this intelligence with our American friends,” the security official said on condition of anonymity. He would not comment on whether U.S. agents had been present during the interrogation.
Hayyat said Ghailani was providing “very valuable” information.
More information could come from retrieval of files on two computers and several diskettes found in the house in Gujrat, alongside AK-47 rifles, plastic chemicals and a large amount of money.
A Pakistani counterterror official said it appeared that Ghailani and the others, including his wife and several children, had come to Gujrat about a month ago to get fake travel documents to flee Pakistan.
It was not clear if they were plotting any attacks here or elsewhere.
Ghailani is suspected of buying the truck used as the vehicle bomb in the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in which 12 people were killed.