Pakistan says it arrests French man reportedly linked to one of Sept. 11 plotters | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Pakistan says it arrests French man reportedly linked to one of Sept. 11 plotters

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has arrested a French man reportedly linked to one of the masterminds of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, a reminder of the country's vital role in the war on international jihadist groups at a time of deteriorating relations with the U.S., security officials said Wednesday.

Naamen Meziche was captured in a raid near the border with Iran, officials said, without specifying when this had happened.

Western media reports have described Meziche as an al-Qaida operative with links to European jihadist groups believed to have been living until now in either Pakistan or Iran. CNN and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Meziche was a friend of Mohammed Atta, who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. However, he does not appear to have any operational role in the attacks.

The officials did not give their names in keeping with the policy of the Pakistani security forces.

The officials said Meziche was a close associate of Younis al-Mauritani, who Pakistani security forces arrested in September last year in a joint operation with the CIA. That arrest also took place in the Baluchistan region, which borders Iran. U.S. officials said al-Mauritani was believed to have been plotting attacks in Europe. It is unclear where al-Mauritani is now being held. One of the officials said he had been in Iran but it was not clear when he'd come to Pakistan.

A senior Pakistan security official said al-Mauritani's interrogation led officials to Meziche. He was arrested while trying to flee the country, likely on his way to Somalia, said the official. If Meziche is found to have broken the law in Pakistan he would be charged and tried inside the country, the official said. Otherwise he would be deported to France. The official said al-Mauritani had asked Meziche to conduct foreign operations for al-Qaida.

Baluchistan borders Afghanistan to the northeast and has been a hotbed of militant activity.

Pakistani intelligence agents are currently questioning the French national.

The arrest highlights the Pakistani security forces' key role in the anti-al-Qaida campaign, even as the U.S. and Pakistan are going through one of the rockiest stages in their relationship since the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. The Navy SEAL raid on the Pakistan garrison city of Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden last year raised questions about whether Pakistani security officials at some level knew of the al-Qaida leader's presence in their country. On the Pakistani side, the raid infuriated the military because it was not told about the attack ahead of time and, once it happened, was powerless to stop it.

Tensions increased even further in November when U.S. forces accidentally killed 24 Pakistani border troops, prompting Pakistan to close supply lines to American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Those supply lines remain closed to this day as Pakistan demands an apology from the U.S. for the deaths.

The U.S. has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to go after militant groups operating in its territory. During a June 7 visit to Kabul, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the U.S. was losing patience with Pakistan over its failure to go after the Haqqani network, considered one of the most dangerous militant groups fighting in Afghanistan. The U.S. has blamed an attack on the American Embassy in Kabul last year on the network.

Pakistan also argues that the U.S. does not recognize the tough price the country has already paid for taking on militant groups operating on its territory, a battle that has killed tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and security forces. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target the Haqqanis and other Afghan militants based on its soil because they could be useful allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, especially in countering the influence of India.

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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