Monday, September 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

US officials grill Sept 11 suspect

Karachi, Pakistan, September 15
US officials led the interrogation of key Al-Qaida suspect Ramzi bin al-Shibh today, as Pakistan pondered over the likely extradition requests from the USA and Germany.

Pakistani officials said they were prepared to send Ramzi and his accomplice abroad for trial, but said no decision had yet been reached on where they should go.

“It has been decided to hand over the arrested Al-Qaida militants, but no decision has been taken as to which country they will be handed over to,’’ an Interior Ministry official said.

Ramzi, wanted in the USA and Germany for his alleged role in planning the hijacked plane attacks on the USA, is one of the most important Al-Qaida members to be taken into custody over the past year.

Officials say he was a very prominent member of an Al-Qaida cell in the German city of Hamburg and a roommate of Mohamed Atta — the suspected ringleader of the September 11 hijackers.

US officials have said the Yemeni national, who was refused a visa into the USA at least four times before September 11, 2001, wanted to join the 19 hijackers involved in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Both American and German governments have already expressed interest in taking him into custody.

“We certainly want his custody”, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told Fox News. “We will work with Pakistani officials.’’ “We certainly want to be able to find out what he knows,’’ Rice added.

The German prosecutor’s spokesman said on Sunday that her government had not yet filed an extradition request with Pakistan and was still examining the situation before deciding on the next move. But Interior Minister Otto Schily has made it clear they would like to try him.

“We in Germany have issued an international arrest warrant that we want to enforce,’’ Schily told ARD Television in Copenhagen on Saturday. “If there are competing interests, we must come to an agreement with other countries.’’

The Pakistani security forces, acting on a tip-off from US agents, arrested Ramzi on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.

The arrest followed a three-hour gunbattle involving hundreds of policemen that left two Al-Qaida suspects dead and at least six policemen wounded.

At least one other raid was conducted in Karachi earlier in the week. Now, Ramzi a second high-level Al-Qaida suspect, and 10 others are being held in a secret, high-security location in Pakistan.

“They are being interrogated to retrieve maximum possible information about other Al-Qaida suspects in Pakistan,” an army source, who asked not to be identified, said.

The source said the arrested men were being kept blindfolded and handcuffed during questioning, with the two leading suspects held separately from their colleagues.

“Most of the time, it’s American FBI officials who are interrogating them,” he added.

Yesterday, US President George W. Bush hailed the capture and vowed to hunt down other suspects still at large.

“Thanks to the efforts of our folks and people in Pakistan, we captured one of the planners of the September 11 attack that murdered thousands of people,” Mr Bush told reporters at Camp David.

The Pakistani police said US agents had traced Ramzi to a three-storey building in an upmarket district of Karachi, thanks to a satellite phone call.

Security and intelligence agents paced armed resistance when they raided the building on Wednesday and had to call in hundreds of policemen to help flush the men out. Reuters 

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