Pakistani intelligence agents found plans for new attacks against the United States and Britain on a computer seized during the arrest of a senior al-Qaida suspect wanted for the 1998 twin U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, the information minister said.
The plans were found in e-mails on the computer of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian arrested July 25 after a 12-hour gunbattle in the eastern city of Gujrat, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Associated Press on Monday.
“We got a few e-mails from Ghailani’s computer about (plans for) attacks in the U.S. and U.K.,” he said, adding that the information has been shared with Pakistan’s allies — a reference to the United States.
Ahmed said authorities have also arrested another top suspect believed to be a computer and communications expert, and that that man was cooperating with investigators. It was not clear if the man was linked to Ghailani, and Ahmed would not say when or where he was captured.
“He is a very wanted man, but I cannot say his name now,” Ahmed said. He said the man was a militant, but refused to say if he was part of al-Qaida.
An intelligence official said the man was a computer engineer who would send messages using code words to al-Qaida suspects. Pakistani television reported that his name was Noor Mohammed, but the official said that was an alias.
The New York Times on Monday reported that a 25-year-old computer engineer named Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan was arrested in Pakistan on July 13, apparently a reference to the same man.
Ahmed would not confirm whether the information from Ghailani or the computer expert is what prompted U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to issue a warning Sunday about a possible al-Qaida attack on prominent financial institutions in New York, Washington and Newark, New Jersey.
Ridge specifically thanked Pakistan for its help in the war on terror during his press conference Sunday.
Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat confirmed that Ghailani was sharing “vital” information, but he would not comment on what it was.
“He has given us vital information, but we cannot share specifics,” Hayyat said. An intelligence official said the information about a U.S. attack appeared to be centered on New York. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hayyat said Ghailani remains in Pakistani custody.
The Home Office in London, which is responsible for policing and security in Britain, said it didn’t believe the computer seizure revealed a “specific threat” or that the British public needed to take any specific action as a result.
The department said the threat from terrorism is “real and serious” but it added and that its position was unchanged in the wake of the developments in Pakistan.
Two AK-47 rifles, two computers, computer diskettes, and a “large amount” of foreign currency were recovered from the home in Gujrat where Ghailani was seized. More than a dozen others, including his wife and several children, were also arrested in that raid.
Officials believe the group was making plans to flee Pakistan on false passports. Gujrat is a center for document forgers and human smugglers in Pakistan.
Ahmed said that Pakistani forces are still acting on the information the computer expert is supplying.
News of the break comes as police comb through evidence from an assassination attempt against Pakistan’s prime minister-designate believed orchestrated by al-Qaida. Police were questioning a tailor they believe made the clothes for the suicide bomber who blew himself up Friday.
The bomber’s target, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, was unharmed, but nine other people were killed. Aziz has been tapped to take over as prime minister later this year.
Al-Qaida vows more violence
A Web site announcement over the weekend claimed responsibility on behalf of al-Qaida and promised more violence. Al-Qaida is also believed to be behind two attempts in December to assassinate President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, one of which killed 17 people.
Musharraf has been a top U.S. ally in the war on terror, infuriating Muslim radicals in Pakistan and elsewhere, and his security services have arrested a number of top al-Qaida-linked figures, most recently Ghailani.
Ahmed said the investigation into Ghailani had revealed that he was training terrorists in Pakistan to commit suicide attacks, though it was not clear if there was a direct connection between him and the attempt on Aziz.
“All these suicide attackers have some link with each other,” Ahmed said Sunday.
The government has promised a reward of $175,000 for information about the identity of the suicide bomber, state-run Pakistan Television reported.