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‘Son-in-law of Zawahiri was mastermind’

August 19, 2006

PESHAWAR, Aug 18: A son-in-law of Al Qaeda No 2 Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri is believed to be the mastermind of the plot to blow up transatlantic flights and he met one or some of the plotters at a place close to the Pakistan-Afghan border, credible sources told Dawn.

“The mastermind in the planes bombing plot is Zawahiri’s son-in-law,” said the sources who did not want to be named. “He is the guy being looked for,” they added.

Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant is known to have several sons-in-law. One of them was reported to have been killed in a bombing run at an Al Qaeda hideout in Tora Bora following the US invasion in 2001; the other one is said to be in Iranian custody while a third one is in an Egyptian prison.

One report said that one of Zawahiri’s daughters had been married to a son of Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden’s two sons, Mohammad bin Laden and Saad bin Laden, are reported to be in Iranian custody, together with Saiful Adil, Sulman Abu Gaith, Shauqi Al Islamboli and Abu Mohammad Al Misri.

Saiful Adil and Abu Mohammad Al Misri are wanted for their role in the 1998 East African embassy bombings, while Islamboli is brother of Capt Khalid Islamboli who assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadaat on October 6, 1981.

One of Zawahiri’s sons-in-law, Abdur Rehman Al-Maghribi, was reported to have been killed in a US airstrike in Bajaur Agency in January 2006.

It is not clear whether the son-in-law in question is Al-Maghribi or someone else, and if is him then when did the meeting take place and whether he indeed was killed in that airstrike.

But the sources said that information available so far indicated that one or some of the plotters had met Zawahiri’s son-in-law either in Bajaur or just across the border in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province.

These sources did not say when the meeting took place. But intelligence reports in the past had indicated that Al Qaeda operatives, including Zawahiri, had been known to have been visiting Bajaur due to its proximity with Kunar.

The January 18 airstrike on two houses in Damadola in Bajaur reportedly targeted the bespectacled Al Qaeda No 2. Eighteen civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in the attack, causing public outrage and prompting Pakistan to lodge a formal protest with the US.

The sources said that Zawahiri’s son-in-law had made some initial payment to one or some of the plotters who had met him and the latter had been given a hawala or a referral for receiving further payments in England.

An intelligence source had told reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday that the Al Qaeda’s link to the bombing plot had been established and that it was Afghanistan-based. Describing the mastermind as an Al Qaeda No 3, the intelligence source had equated him with Abu Faraj Al-Libbi – the Al Qaeda operative who was captured from Mardan in May 2005.

Separately, one source said that while money was routed to England from South Africa the direction as to where the money should go or who should get it went from the sponsors in Pakistan. This could not be independently verified.