Conflict & Justice

Pakistan captures three al Qaeda operatives

Three senior al Qaeda operatives involved in planning terror attacks in Europe and the U.S. have been arrested in Pakistan, the Pakistani military has announced.

The most senior of the three is Younis al-Mauritani, who was detained in Quetta.

“Al Mauritani was tasked personally by Osama bin Laden to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in United States of America, Europe and Australia,” the Pakistani military said in a statement. “He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive-laden speed boats in international waters.”

Al Mauritani’s plans for a major attack in Europe triggered a terror alert in Germany late last year, according to the Guardian.

The other two captured al Qaeda members were Abdul-Ghaffar al-Shami and Messara al-Shami, NPR reports.

These arrests are the latest in a series of hits against al Qaeda in recent months. U.S. forces killed the terrorist group’s original mastermind Osama bin Laden in a raid on May 2, and a CIA drone strike took out operations chief Atiyah Abd al-Rahman in August.

(More from GlobalPost: CIA drone kills al Qaeda No. 2)

Al-Mauritani is the most high profile al-Qaeda member to have been arrested in Pakistan in recent years, the Guardian reports. In the last several years, it has become more common for Pakistan-based al Qaeda leaders to be killed by CIA drones rather than arrested in Pakistan. Some have suggested that’s because Pakistan has protected the militants, NPR reports.

However, the latest arrests, which the Pakistani military said had occurred with assistance from U.S. intelligence agencies, suggest that the relationship between Pakistan and the United States might be evolving.

According to the New York Times:

Tensions have run high since the May 2 raid on Bin Laden’s compound, which inflamed Pakistani sensitivities over sovereignty while at the same time heightening distrust of Pakistan in the United States.

Monday’s announcement sought to strike a note of respect for a relationship portrayed as important and longstanding. “The intimate cooperation between Pakistan and United States intelligence agencies has resulted into prevention of number of high profile terrorist acts not only inside Pakistan/United States but elsewhere also in world,” the Pakistan Army statement said.

Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, told NPR that the intelligence cooperation between the United States and Pakistan has been restored almost to levels prior to the diplomatic tensions. He said, “This [the arrest] reflects how Pakistan and the United States working together can deal an effective blow to the terrorists.”