Islamabad, March 10 (Reuters): A top aide of Osama bin Laden arrested last week has given information helping investigators close in on the al Qaida leader and told them he met bin Laden in December, Pakistan’s intelligence agency said today.
Pakistan’s powerful military Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) said the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Rawalpindi on March 1 indicated the hunt for the world’s most wanted man was moving forward.
“Progressively we are moving,” a senior intelligence official told foreign journalists in the first press conference by the ISI in the history of Pakistan.
But the official said he was not sure whether to believe Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, when he said he had met bin Laden because he had refused to say where the meeting had taken place.
“He confirmed he met him in December,” the official said. “I don’t believe him unless he tells us the locations and gives us witnesses.”
The ISI showed journalists a grainy video purporting to show the night-time raid on the house where they say Mohammed was seized, along with a key financier of the hijack plane attacks, Saudi national Ahmed al-Hawsawi. But the video did not show Mohammed’s face — just his back and neck before his head was hooded — nor any sign of the struggle which officials say took place.
Officials say Mohammed shot one intelligence agent in the foot with an AK-47 assault rifle during the raid.
Most journalists at the briefing said the video looked like a reconstruction, which will not dampen rumours that Mohammed might have been seized in a previous raid in another place, as relatives of the householders have said.
The video went on to show an investigator donning plastic gloves to remove a computer from the apartment, and collecting compact discs, documents and a walkie talkie in resealable clear plastic bags.
Officials said they had already gleaned useful information from the documents and from interrogating Mohammed for three days alongside US agents before handing him over to US custody.
“In the first two days he didn’t say a word except to confirm he was KSM (Khalid Sheikh Mohammed),” the intelligence official at the briefing said.
“On the third day he started giving information, confirming his association with different people inside Pakistan and outside Pakistan. He started giving leads,” he said.
Pakistani security forces have arrested at least two foreigners in Peshawar for suspected links to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network, intelligence sources said today.
Those held in a raid in an upmarket neighbourhood of the city late on Saturday included an Iraqi and an Iranian, an intelligence source said.