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THE capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as “a critical victory in the war on terror”. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists’ third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you this photograph. Here is Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, captured, described as the number-three man in al-Qaeda. How significant was his arrest?
MR. SCHROEN: I think it's significant in two ways, Tim. He is the number-three guy. He replaced Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was a mastermind of many of the attacks. His arrest will significantly damage the al-Qaeda organization. It's important in a second way because it demonstrates that the Pakistani government and military are willing to go into tribal areas north of Peshawar, where it's most likely that bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahari are hiding.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you think the Pakistanis have a pretty good sense where he(bin Laden) is?
MR. SCHROEN: I think within the military and ISID at a a certain level, they certainly do now where he(bin Laden) is.
MR. RUSSERT: ISID being Pakistani Intelligence...
MR. SCHROEN: Pakistani Intelligence Service.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you the map of the border area. It's the border 1,640 miles long, the mountainous region about the size of the country of Ireland. And you think up there in the upper right hand corner?
MR. SCHROEN: Upper right hand corner, there is a little--you know, the little jot out there is where Peshawar is, and north of that is a rugged area. It's traditionally been the most hostile area to any kind of government control. The tribals there have made centuries of living smuggling and it's one of the main drug trafficking routes in and out of the country. And bin Laden is very respected and liked in that area.
MR. RUSSERT: And they're protecting him?
MR. SCHROEN: I think they're protecting him for a number of reasons. He is considered to be a Robin Hood-like figure. He has made a, you know, mockery of our efforts to catch him for all these years, and he probably has a nice checkbook that he is writing sizeable amounts of checks for these people hosting him.
Videotape, May 4, 2005:
MR. TOM BROKAW: Is there a danger for you, personally, and for your government, that if Pakistani troops take down Osama bin Laden in what would probably be a difficult struggle, it would cause an uprising in some of the cities in your country, and in the refugee camps?
GEN. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: Well, there would be effects, but we shouldn't be so naive as to capture him and then go around telling everyone and going around with him everywhere. I mean, there is a method of dealing with the situation.
MR. BROKAW: But it would be delicate, wouldn't it?
GEN. MUSHARRAF: It would be certainly delicate, not only here but even in the Islamic world.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Musharraf: "It would be delicate here in Pakistan and the Islamic world." Is there a distinct possibility that Mr. Musharraf is afraid of capturing Osama bin Laden because he would fear that his government would be toppled?
MR. SCHROEN: In my opinion, that's a real likelihood, that the Pakistanis have cooperated pretty wholesomely in helping us capture a lot of al-Qaeda officers up to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and this-- the capture of Al-Libbi recently is a significant event but to take on bin Laden, there would be an uproar within that country and around the Islamic world that would really cause the foundations of the Pakistani government to be shaken.
MR. RUSSERT: After Al-Libbi was captured, some citizens in the town told NBC News: "If we had known it was him, we would have protected him."
MR. SCHROEN: I think that's probably very accurate. And if we were able to find bin Laden, and identify that to the Pakistanis, I would suspect that there would be a great reluctance and probably a refusal to move forward. That's my opinion.
But first, the war on terrorism through the eyes of CIA veteran, now author, Gary Schroen.
Originally posted by Vajrayana (and who also has a book out)
Yeah because showing Al-Qaeda that a rank and file member of their organisation has been captured would throw them into disarray
Al Qa'eda third in command 'is running terror cells in the UK'
By Massoud Ansari in Karachi
A Libyan hunted by Pakistan because of his senior role in the al Qa'eda terrorist network has taken charge of its sleeper cells in Britain and the United States, Pakistani intelligence officials believe.
Abu Faraj al Libbi, said to have taken over as third in command of al Qa'eda when his mentor, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was captured last year, has sent coded messages to "several" Islamic militants in Britain over the past 10 months, according to Pakistani officials.
Security officers who have interrogated recently captured militants say that Abu Faraj, who is now believed to be al Qa'eda's top operational chief, masterminded and financed assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf, the country's military ruler, last December.
They have now revealed that Abu Faraj, who was once Osama bin Laden's personal assistant, is also in frequent contact with al Qa'eda members and supporters abroad, particularly in Britain and America. They have identified two people - both of whom are in British custody - as recipients of coded messages from Abu Faraj.
The Libyan, Abu Faraj Al Libbi alias Dr Taufeeq, ranks number three in Al-Qaeda's new generation of operatives, after Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Al Zawahiri, officials said.
The Libyan, listed in the advertisement as Abu Faraj Al Libbi alias Dr Taufeeq, ranks number three in Al Qaeda’s new generation of operatives, replacing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who was captured in March 2003, according to a senior Pakistani security official.
“This Libyan ranks third in the current Al Qaeda hierarchy after Osama bin Laden and his (Egyptian) deputy Ayman Al Zawahiri,” the official told AFP.
The only operations in which he is known to have been involved are two attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, in 2003. Last year he was named Pakistan’s most wanted man with a $350,000 (£185,000) price on his head.
No European or American intelligence expert contacted last week had heard of al-Libbi until a Pakistani intelligence report last year claimed he had taken over as head of operations after Khalid Shaikh Mohammad’s arrest. A former close associate of Bin Laden now living in London laughed: “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.”