U.S. government knows of no al Qaida arrest in Pakistan

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 8, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Despite numerous news reports that Pakistan has arrested an American al Qaida operative in the port city of Karachi, the U.S. government is unaware that anyone affiliated with the terrorist network, American or otherwise, has been captured in Pakistan recently, U.S. officials said Monday.

"None of this appears to be fact at this point," said a U.S. official who asked not to be further identified because the official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

U.S. and international news reports that first appeared Sunday quoted unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials as saying that Pakistani agents in Karachi had arrested Adam Gadahn, a Californian who'd converted to Islam and oversees al Qaida's propaganda operations.

Gadahn, 31, is the most wanted American member of al Qaida and the first U.S. citizen since the 1940s to be charged with treason.

In their stories, McClatchy and The New York Times noted that there was uncertainty about the identity of the suspect, with some Pakistani officials giving him different names, including Abu Yahya Mujahdeen al Adam, a Pennsylvania-born militant who's thought to help command fighters in Afghanistan.

The McClatchy story also noted that Pakistani officials previously have mistaken the identities of militants they've detained or killed, that some reported deaths and arrests have never been confirmed and that other reports have proved to be wrong.

By Monday, news reports quoted unnamed Pakistani officials as saying that the suspect had been misidentified and was Adam.

The Associated Press on Monday quoted White House spokesman Bill Burton as saying that President Barack Obama was receiving updates on the reports that an American al Qaida operative had been arrested in Pakistan, but that the White House had been unable to confirm the information.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley also said that the U.S. government "cannot say that there is an American in custody" aside from five American citizens from Virginia who were arrested in December for allegedly trying to enlist in an extremist group.

A U.S. intelligence official, who couldn't be identified because he wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said that he knew of no recent arrest in Pakistan of any al Qaida operative.

"We've had no information," the intelligence official said. "Nothing."

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McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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