Pakistan has decided to extradite recently captured senior al Qaeda leader Younis al Mauritani along with two other high-ranking operatives of the terrorist organisation to the United States.
Mauritani – who was believed to be al Qaeda’s external operations chief – and his two accomplices, Abdul Ghaffar al Shami and Messara al Shami, were arrested from the suburbs of Quetta on September 5 by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Pakistani authorities confirmed that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had provided the technical assistance in an operation conducted by the ISI and Frontier Corps Balochistan to track them down.
A military official told The Express Tribune that the detained al Qaeda operatives are likely to be handed over to the US.
“It is our stated policy that we extradite al Qaeda members of foreign origins,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
However, he did not give any timeline of their likely extradition.
Pakistan has handed over hundreds of al Qaeda operatives to the US since the beginning of the global campaign against al Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks.
But the policy has come under sharp criticism from some who believe that Pakistan, especially during former military ruler General Parvez Musharraf’s regime, extradited many innocent people in return for dollars.
Meanwhile, the arrest of Mauritani and Islamabad’s decision of his extradition is being viewed as a significant development to normalise relations between the ISI and CIA.
The co-operation between the two spy agencies had been strained ever since the US covert raid to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad on May 2.
The presence of the world’s most wanted man in Pakistan raised serious doubts about the ability of the country’s security establishment to fight terrorism.
However, the arrest of Mauritani has been hailed by Washington as ‘yet another blow to al Qaeda.’
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday said that Pakistan’s capture of a senior al Qaeda figure was an “encouraging” sign that Islamabad was ready to bolster its cooperation with US counter-terrorism efforts.
He also reportedly said, “I assume that we will work with the Pakistanis to try to obtain access to the al Qaeda militants.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2011.
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