Coded email triggers capture of al-Qaeda suspects in Internet cafe
Friday, 26-Sep-2003 9:20AM
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Sept 26 (AFP) – Two al-Qaeda suspects were arrested in an Internet cafe in Pakistan’s northwest in a dramatic swoop by officers, security officials and witnesses said Friday.
The arrest was triggered when one of the suspects sat down in an Internet cafe in the wild frontier city Peshawar Thursday morning and sent an apparently coded email inviting an Arab man to meet him, witnesses said.
“Two al-Qaeda suspects have been arrested on Thursday. We are interrogating them,” a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The first man, who gave his name as Habib, had entered the City Net Cafe, Peshawar’s latest and most modern Internet club, at around 10:30 am, cafe employee Shaukat told AFP.
He was whispering furtively into his mobile phone in the Pashtu language, unaware of the six plainclothes intelligence agents posing as net browsers in the cafe.
Habib logged on at one of the 20 terminals and sent a message through Yahoo messenger which read “I am waiting for you in net cafe. I have mother with me and we will go to village”, Shaukat recounted.
But he was not accompanied by any woman. “I think the email was a coded message,” Shaukat said.
Shortly after, a bearded Arab man entered the cafe and approached the Pashtu-speaker.
At that point the intelligence agents jumped up from their terminals and pounced on the two men.
Habib took out a pistol but was overpowered before he could fire it, Shaukat said.
Uniformed anti-terrorist commandos then arrived at the cafe in jeeps. Some 15 commandos blindfolded Habib, tied the hands and feet of the Arab man and bundled the pair into the waiting jeeps and drove off.
A joint team of investigators from Pakistan’s police and military intelligence agencies is interrogating the pair, the security official said.
Their exact identities and nationalities were not revealed.
The Daily Pakistan Urdu-language newspaper reported that one of the men was a Yemeni national, identified as Khalid.
Pakistan has arrested more than 500 al-Qaeda suspects since joining the war on terrorism in the wake of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States. The majority have been handed over to the US.