ISLAMABAD, May 4: Security forces have arrested top Al Qaeda leader Abu Faraj Al Libbi, who was allegedly behind two assassination attempts against President Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2003, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said here on Wednesday. Addressing a press conference at his residence, the minister said the Libyan national had been arrested a few days back. However, he declined to give details about how and from where the man had been arrested.

Al Libbi, who is said to be number three in the Al Qaeda hierarchy, carried a head money of $10 million. The government of Pakistan also had announced a reward of Rs20 million for information leading to his arrest.

“I confirm that Abu Faraj Al Libbi has been arrested but it is premature to say whether he would be handed over to the US because during the investigation process, which is under way, no decision in this regard can be taken,” Mr Sherpao said. Responding to a question, he said the Al Qaeda leader was arrested by Pakistani security forces, and no US agency was involved in the operation. Mr Sherpao termed the arrest a great success for Pakistan security agencies in the war against terrorism.

“This is a good job done by the law-enforcement agencies, because it is a major success as far as the war against terrorism is concerned,” the minister said.

“It will lead to more success against the war that we are waging against terrorism.” The arrest of Al Libbi, he said, was a major setback for Al Qaeda. “Besides attempts on the life of President Musharraf, the Al Qaeda operative was involved in many other cases of terrorism in Pakistan,” he added.

Mr Sherpao said Al Libbi was close to Amjad Farooqi, another Al Qaeda leader said to be involved in two attempts on President Musharraf’s life in Rawalpindi who was killed by security forces last year.

Responding to a question about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri, the minister said it were not yet known. However, a profile of Al Libbi issued by the interior minister revealed that he was among a few people who knew where Al Qaeda’s top leaders were hiding.

Born in Libya, Al Libbi helped Khalid Sheikh organize the September 11 attacks in the United States. After Khalid Sheikh’s arrest in Pakistan in 2003, Al Libbi was promoted in the Al Qaeda hierarchy, the document said. It said Al Libbi had one potentially significant identification characteristic – vitiligo – a disease in which skin loses colour and turns white.

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