Category Archives: Ramzi Binalshibh

Binalshibh whisked out of Pakistan but not indicted

U.S. Whisks Binalshibh Out of Pakistan

Monday, September 16, 2002


KARACHI, Pakistan ? Ramzi Binalshibh, the Sept. 11 terror suspect arrested in Pakistan last week, was flown out of Pakistan by the United States Monday, sources said.

The sources said Binalshibh, who authorities say trained to be the "20th hijacker" on Sept. 11, was among five Al Qaeda suspects flown out of Pakistan.

Fox News has learned the identity of another of the five Al Qaeda members now in the custody of the U.S. He is Umar Al-Gharib, the brother of a man thought to be one of the planners of the USS Cole bombing.

The five were arrested in Karachi last week, marking a major success in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Binalshibh, 30, is believed by the FBI to have been the intended 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks, but he was frustrated in his attempts to receive a visa to enter the United States in 2000, when, U.S. and German officials allege, he had planned to join the other 19 hijackers.

Instead, he allegedly provided logistical help to the operation and funneled money to his former roommate, Mohammed Atta, believed to have been the leader of the suicide hijackers.

Binalshibh boasted of his role in planning the Sept. 11 attacks during an interview in Karachi with Al-Jazeera television. The interview was broadcast last week, but the station said it received an audio-taped recording of the interview in June.

Earlier Monday, another government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said police were investigating whether suspects arrested with Binalshibh were involved in the murder of American reporter Daniel Pearl.

If a link were established, it would be the first evidence that Al Qaeda may have been involved in Pearl’s abduction and killing.

Binalshibh’s transfer to the United States became more likely Sunday when Germany decided not to pursue his extradition to face a mass murder-conspiracy indictment, and U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. was negotiating to have Binalshibh turned over to American officials.

"We certainly want custody of him, and we certainly want to be able to find out what he knows," Rice told Fox News Sunday.

Rice could not confirm speculation that another Al Qaeda suspect arrested last week was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of Usama bin Laden’s chief lieutenants.

"I wouldn’t rule anything out here, but I think that we’ll just wait and see how this unfolds," she said

Germany has an international arrest warrant for Binalshibh charging him with more than 3,000 counts of murder for allegedly conspiring in the city of Hamburg with Atta and other Sept. 11 plotters to attack the United States.

But German Interior Minister Otto Schily said Sunday the government had dropped plans to ask Pakistan to extradite Binalshibh, avoiding a potential conflict with the U.S.

Schily said that given the "terrible attacks of Sept. 11 occurred in New York and Washington, it goes without saying that Americans have priority for his extradition."

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft welcomed Germany’s decision, saying, "We, from time to time, cooperate to sequence our interests."

Sending Binalshibh first to Germany would have complicated efforts to hand him over to the U.S., since European Union nations refuse to extradite suspects to the United States if they can face the death penalty.

The U.S. has not issued any public indictment against Binalshibh, but he is named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the designated 20th hijacker who was arrested before Sept. 11.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

 


Ramzi bin al-Shibh summary by HRW

Ramzi bin al-Shibh (Yemen)

[From Human Rights Watch report: http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/us1004/7.htm#_ftnref119]


Detention “confirmed? by the U.S. government. 118

Background

Alleged conspirator in Sept. 11 attacks. He failed four  times to get a U.S. visa. 119  Bin al-Shibh is said to have become a key member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany after he sought asylum there in the late 1990s. He reportedly met Muhammad  Atta, the leader of the Hamburg cell, through a local mosque in 1997.  Intelligence officials say bin al-Shibh may also have been involved in the  attacks on the USS Cole and a Tunisian synagogue. 120

Arrest

Arrested in September 2002 in Karachi, Pakistan.

Detention

After his arrest, the Pakistani government handed him over  to the United States, 121  which reportedly took him initially to a secret CIA installation in Thailand. 122  He  has since been kept in custody in an undisclosed location under CIA control. 123  The  United States district court trying Zacarias Moussaoui, charged with conspiracy  in the 9/11 attacks, decided in April 2004 to allow Moussaoui to take testimony  from bin al-Shibh and two other al-Qaeda members. The United States had refused, citing national security concerns. 124  In September 2004, a U.S. appeals court reportedly said that Moussaoui could submit written questions intended for the  detainees. 125  In the trial of Munir al-Mutasaddiq in Hamburg, Germany, accused of complicity  in the 9/11 attacks, the defense for months requested bin al-Shibh’s testimony.  Finally, on August 11, 2004, the U.S. Justice Department provided excerpts from  interrogations of bin al-Shibh, according to which Motassadeq was not involved  in the plot. 126

Intelligence

 According to the Commission on Terrorist Attacks, bin  al-Shibh sent $14,000 to Moussaoui in August 2001 based on the understanding  that Moussaoui was to be “part of the 9/11 plot.” 127  According to the New  York Times,

 Mr. bin al-Shibh has “. proven to be cooperative with  interrogators, several senior officials said. But they said his cooperation  also did not begin immediately. Several senior counterterrorism officials  overseas said recently that they understood that both men [bin al-Shibh and  Khalid Shaikh Muhammad] possibly had begun to cooperate either after being  subjected to coercive interrogations or after being threatened with torture, an  accusation adamantly denied by American officials”. Under harsh interrogation  methods, both Mr. Muhammad and Mr. bin al-Shibh appear to have been willing to  provide elaborate accounts of past events. But they appeared to have been less  willing to describe operations that have not yet been carried out, leading some  of the intelligence officials to raise questions about the truthfulness of some  or all of their statements. 128

The 9/11 Commission report refers to the intelligence  reports of 41 interrogation sessions with bin al-Shibh, dating from July 2002  to July 2004.

 

Notes 

[118] As per  9/11 Commission. See National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States, 9-11 Commission Report, Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc., 2004, p.  488, n. 2.

[119]”Sept. 11 Coordinator at Gitmo,  Paper Says,” The Commercial Appeal, March 1, 2004.

[120]”Who’s Who in al Qaeda,” BBC News  Online, July 15, 2004 [online], http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2780525.stm#ic.

 [121] “U.S.  Secrets Suspects out of Pakistan,” The Australian, September 18, 2002.

 [122]  Raymond Bonner, Don Van Natta, Jr., and Amy Waldman, “Questioning Terror  Suspects in a Dark and Surreal World,” The New York Times, March 9,  2003.

[123]Dana Priest, “CIA Puts Harsh Tactics  on Hold,” The Washington Post, June 27, 2004.

[124]Assistant Attorney General Michael  Chertoff, the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, argued on June 3, 2004 that if defense counsel were allowed to interrupt the interrogation of bin  al-Shibh, “the damage to the United Sates will be immediate and irreparable?  (“Terrorist Attack Aftermath: U.S. Appeal in Moussaoui Case Dismissed,” Facts  on File World News Digest, June 26, 2003). The prosecutors said that “allowing Moussaoui access to Ramzi Bin al-Shibh would permit two terrorists  to exchange classified information? (Toni Locy, “Ashcroft Defies Moussaoui Case  Order,” USA Today, July 15, 2003).

[125] See Jerry Markon, “Court Clears Way for Moussaoui Trial,” Washington Post, September 14, 2004.

[126]”Mr. Motassadeq “was not privy? to  the plans of Mohamed Atta or the other hijackers? (Mark Landler, “German 9/11  Retrial Gets Exculpatory Evidence from U.S.,” New York Times, August 12, 2004).

[127] Eric  Lichtblau, “Report Says Arrest Thwarted Use of Substitute 9/11 Pilot,” New  York Times, June 17, 2004.

[128]David Johnston and Don Van Natta,  Jr., “Account of Plot Sets off Debate over Credibility,” New York  Times, June 17, 2004.

Al-Jazeera reporter speaks on Binalshibh interview

Australian Broadcasting Corporation
LATELINE
Late night news & current affairs


TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT 
URL: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/s689774.htm

Broadcast: 30/9/2002
Al-Jazeera reporter speaks on terrorist plans
Two lieutenants of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group, Al Qaeda, met a reporter from the al-Jazeera television network – revealing they were the masterminds behind the attacks on the US last year. Yosri Fouda reported that the two operatives had initially planned to strike nuclear facilities in the US, but abandoned the plan for fear of unintended consequences.


———
Compere: Tony Jones
Reporter: Tony Jones


TONY JONES, PRESENTER:: Joining me now is Yosri Fouda.

His face is well known throughout the Arab world as the investigative reporter on al-Jazeera TV’s ‘Top Secret’ program.

He’s in our London studio.

TONY JONES: Welcome to you, Yosri Fouda.

Can you sketch out for us, if you can, briefly the role that each of these men played in the September 11 attacks?

YOSRI FOUDA, AL-JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT: Well, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed himself, as he would introduce himself, he is head of the so-called Al Qaeda military committee.

Ramzi Binalshibh would introduce himself as the ‘coordinator’ of 9/11.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being head of Al Qaeda military committee, would be in charge of studying possible targets, selecting suitable recruits, defining the time scale of certain operation and indeed following up all the details until reaching the moment of execution.

Ramzi Binalshibh would be the coordinator and, by the way, Ramzi Binalshibh came to be the coordinator of 9/11 by default because he initially wanted to join the 19 hijackers when he failed, I think he turned into being the coordinator and focused on that role, when he was in Germany.

TONY JONES: These men have been the target of an immense man hunt, as we know, Binalshibh was recently arrested and seems to now blame you partly for that, or at least some of his supporters do.

But considering how hard it is to get to people like that, how were you able to interview them?

YOSRI FOUDA: Well, I mean Tony, this is not the sort of people that you would track down.

As a journalist, you could only dream of it, fantasise about it.

This is the sort of people who would track you down.

Whenever they wanted a message out.

But let me correct a little thing that you said in your introduction.

Um, actually Al Qaeda people do not blame me for the arrest of Ramzi Binalshibh or anyone else who happened to be with him.

Indeed, they just issued the statement a few days ago, clearing my name and al-Jazeera’s from any possible link between the arrest and the broadcast of my documentary as you are well aware the interviews were conducted?

TONY JONES: That must be an immense relief for you, I would have thought, considering how ruthless they are.

YOSRI FOUDA: Absolutely.

TONY JONES: How did you get to see them.

YOSRI FOUDA: Well, I mean, one of their mediators gave me a call.

He called me when I was in London wondering if I would be preparing anything to go with the first anniversary.

Of course, I checked the credibility of the caller and I took a decision.

I knew that I was putting my life on the line.

But I thought that there might be something behind it.

And I took a chance and I met them.

I had no clue who I was being led to.

I had no clue what is it that I would be possibly coming back with.

But there I went and I met the people who introduced themselves as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh.

TONY JONES: As we’ve heard, they made some extraordinary admissions, almost confessions to you, I suppose since it was unclear for a long time the degree to which those links existed.

I mean, Osama bin Laden had been targeted but they were in no bones about this, were they?

They clearly were saying they did this.

Osama bin Laden knew about it.

Indeed, Binalshibh actually went to Osama bin Laden prior to September 11 to tell him that the date had been chosen.

YOSRI FOUDA: Absolutely.

If I was offered to meet either Bin Laden or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, I think I would go for those two.

And yes, they admitted – they not only admitted, they are proud of it, they would do it again.

They called for 1,000 operations like this.

Ramzi Binalshibh when he knew because, as you are aware, the final details and the final few weeks were all left up to Mohammed Atta in the field to decide upon, including the zero hour.

When Mohammed Atta decided with his people in America on the zero hour, he called Ramzi Binalshibh and five days before September 11, Ramzi Binalshibh went to Pakistan.

And from there, he actually sent a messenger to Bin Laden to bring it to his attention that the zero hour was defined.

And thus Bin Laden knew about it.

But he knew all the way through, Bin Laden, of all the details of the targets, of the budget and the rest of it.

TONY JONES: Ramzi Binalshibh was Mohammed Atta’s roommate, I think, in Hamburg.

What did he tell you about Mohammed Atta?

What made him the sort of man who would become the most notorious terrorist in history, I suppose?

YOSRI FOUDA: Ramzi would speak very emotionally of Mohammed Atta.

He was in his words like a brother to him, like a son, like a father.

He would say that?and I confirmed this from other sources?the people who knew Atta, whether in Egypt, whether in Germany or indeed in America, that he was such an intelligent man, such a very well-organised, a perfectionist, to put it in short.

He was the ideal and the perfect soldier.

Some people would speak of some special background to Mohammed Atta, family-wise and also what he felt about the situation in the Middle East and more particularly in Palestine and in Egypt and the rest of it.

But for the sort of operation, I think he was the perfect soldier.

And Ramzi Binalshibh would speak highly of him, would speak emotionally of him.

He tells about a little story of Mohammed Atta, that he called him once and said to him, "Brother, never be saddened.

We will meet some day in paradise."

And Ramzi Binalshibh would say to him, "When you are in paradise, please extend our regards to the prophet, Mohammed," and the rest of it.

But that’s a different story.

In short, what I get as a journalist from my research, is the fact that Mohammed Atta was the perfect soldier for such a mission.

TONY JONES: Did you ask these two men whether they watched the results of their handy work on the day that it happened, on September 11?

Did they watch it as so many other people did on satellite TV?

And how they were feeling as they saw these things happen?

YOSRI FOUDA: Yes, indeed.

Ramzi Binalshibh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as well, would describe this in detail that they were watching the rest of us.

And Ramzi tells me he was not actually present with Bin Laden because as you are aware Bin Laden and his immediate group dispersed into the mountains and they were following this actually through listening to radio.

Binalshibh was watching TV.

And they would say that they were very proud of it, praying for the rest of the flights to do what was planned for them to do.

They would scream and chant and feel like they were part of the operation themselves.

I mean, in short, of course, he has his own religious rhetoric, but the thing that I would really like to underline here – it’s not anything of Islam.

It’s?they have their own justification for killing the civilians and certainly Binalshibh saw it on my face that I was not quite convinced, although I didn’t go there to argue or to judge those people, but when it came to the killing the civilian bits, he didn’t like the fact that I was not totally convinced of that, especially it included Muslim civilians.

But this is the way they think – killing the civilians is, you know, hated but they had to do it.

TONY JONES: You say you didn’t go there to argue or challenge their ideas.

Were you simply listening or were you able to put direct questions to them?

I mean, for example, did you ask them directly whether Osama bin Laden was alive or dead?

YOSRI FOUDA: Well, I did indeed.

But before I answer the Bin Laden bit.

When they called me first, we had some sort, an unwritten contract.

They know what kind of journalist I am.

They know what my show’s all about.

They know that it’s not about a debate or a discussion or rhetoric, it’s about information basically.

It’s an investigative program.

So, I think they appreciated that and they prepared a few facts and details for me to tell the world through me.

I did of course ask them directly about Bin Laden.

When they told me, after I had asked them, why me, why not someone else who might have some more sympathy with them?

And they said that it was Bin Laden who picked my name and that I was more of, you know, some sort of a secular journalist in the professional sense of it.

But they would reiterate that Bin Laden is still indeed alive and well and that the whole world would listen or hear from him on his time.

They would refer to him always in the present tense and they would say, "God protect him ", rather than "God have mercy on his soul."

I did however detect at one occasion a slip of the tongue by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and I thought at the moment that it might be significant, I might be wrong, I might be right or right but the fact of the matter is that we remain with no hard evidence to tell us whether Bin Laden is still alive or indeed dead.

TONY JONES: Let me move on, briefly, if I can.

At the time that you spoke to them, it was pretty clear that George W. Bush was moving the war on terrorism into a wider plane, indeed that he was going to target Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

Did you ask them whether they had any connections at all with Saddam Hussein?

YOSRI FOUDA: They don’t have any connection whatsoever.

I did ask the question and they would – the only thing that they would mention the name of Iraq within the context of the injustices in the Middle East and the targeting of the Iraqi children.

But that was as far as it went.

I can sense some sort of trying to establish or figure out whether or not there is any connection.

I certainly did not come across anything that would suggest any link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.

They certainly say that they have nothing to do with Iraq.

Actually, ideologically speaking, they are at odds with the regime in Iraq.

They believe in something completely different from what the Iraqi regime would believe in.

I think some circles are trying to force some kind of a link between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime.

I certainly never came across anything like this.

TONY JONES: Yosri Fouda, we’ll have to leave that part of the discussion for a little later.

Thanks for joining us, though, tonight on Lateline.

Binalshibh to go to third country for questioning

Binalshibh to go to third country for questioning


September 17, 2002 Posted: 3:21 PM EDT (1921 G

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — The CIA and FBI are hoping to get key details on al Qaeda operations now that Ramzi Binalshibh — an al Qaeda operative who has acknowledged he participated in the September 11 terror planning — is in their custody.

"The first focus is to find out what he knows," a senior State Department official said Monday.

Binalshibh, who was captured last week in Pakistan, has been handed over to U.S. authorities and moved out of that country. He is to be taken to an undisclosed third country for further interrogation, officials said.

He has yet to talk in the initial rounds of interrogation. The State Department official said that was not surprising, noting that "dedicated guys" such as Binalshibh generally "don’t spill their guts" right away

This official would not disclose the location or even the country where Binalshibh is being held, and said U.S. investigators are not pressing for Binalshibh to be brought to the United States at the moment.

Although Binalshibh is not among the senior most wanted al Qaeda leaders, a senior U.S. official said he is a "very, very big fish for us," a senior official said, both because he is believed to have played a critical role in the September 11 plot and because he is believed to have been in contact with senior al Qaeda leaders since then.

Binalshibh, a Yemeni national, will be questioned by U.S. intelligence officers in an undisclosed location, officials said.

Pakistani government officials told CNN that Binalshibh and about half of the others captured in raids last week in Karachi were taken out of Pakistan by U.S. officials.

"The first focus is to find out what he knows," said a senior official who has knowledge of the investigation into the al Qaeda network.

One official also said U.S. and Pakistani agents have captured another al Qaeda operative, said to be an associate of another man who was connected with the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors. However, the operative is not known to have been involved in that attack himself, officials said.

Binalshibh had been in Pakistani custody since his arrest last Wednesday — a year to the day after the hijackings — during a series of raids on suspected al Qaeda homes in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

According to officials, he belonged to the same al Qaeda cell based in Hamburg, Germany, that first began plotting the September 11 attacks.

He was also a roommate of lead hijacker Mohammed Atta, who flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. According to U.S. investigators, Binalshibh later sent money to at least two of the hijackers — Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi.

Khallad Tawfiq, a suspect in the USS Cole bombing, also led meetings in Malaysia that included two of September 11 hijackers almost two years before the attacks.

The arrests followed dozens of raids across Pakistan over the past months. Pakistani security forces — working in cooperation with the CIA and FBI — have attempted to track down al Qaeda members who crossed into Pakistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan.

Authorities have arrested more than 400 suspects, but Binalshibh is the most prominent al Qaeda member captured to date, officials said.

A State Department official said at the moment U.S. investigators are not pressing for Binalshibh to be brought to the United States.

Germany, which issued an international arrest warrant for Binalshibh, has said it will seek his extradition but would allow any U.S. extradition request to be considered first.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily told reporters Monday, "Wherever he is extradited depends on the country where he is. We are well advised to give the U.S.A. the first choice because the attacks took place in America. We will not make any demands (to go first)."

U.S. officials would not say how they found Binalshibh and the others, but stressed that an interview shown on the Al-Jazeera network given by Binalshibh and another al Qaeda official — Khallid Sheikh Mohammed — had nothing to do with it. "They [Al-Jazeera] didn’t lead us to him," a senior official said.

Binalshibh acknowledged in the Al-Jazeera interview he played a role in planning the September 11 attacks and had hoped to be one of the hijackers but could not obtain an entry visa into the United States.

In January, when the FBI named Binalshibh as a man it sought, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told CNN’s Larry King that Binalshibh was one of the most-wanted al Qaeda operatives.

"He tried to come to the United States three times and we believe it could well have been that he wanted to be the 20th hijacker," Ashcroft said.

— CNN Correspondents Kelli Arena, Andrea Koppel, David Ensor and Ash-Har Quraishi contributed to this report

Binalshibh to go to third country for questioning

“Binalshibh, who was captured last week in Pakistan, has been handed over to U.S. authorities and moved out of that country. He is to be taken to an undisclosed third country for further interrogation, officials said… This official would not disclose the location or even the country where Binalshibh is being held, and said U.S. investigators are not pressing for Binalshibh to be brought to the United States at the moment.”

In May, German authorities asked the United States to provide access to six key witnesses, including Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who is believed to have been the Hamburg al Qaeda cell’s key contact with Osama bin Laden’s organization.

However, in its letter, the United States said that even information on whether a given individual was in custody was classified as secret.

Other key witnesses sought by German authorities include suspected September 11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is thought to be the mastermind of the attacks.

Opening the retrial Tuesday, Judge Schudt said the Hamburg state court wouldn’t be swayed by political pressure.

“For me, this is not about fulfilling the expectations of governments or the public,” he said. “The black hole in the chain of evidence will close. We will certainly not sink into it.”

El Motassadeq smiled but said nothing as he entered the court. He briefly answered questions about his identity but turned down the judge’s offer to respond to the indictment, AP reported.

El Motassadeq’s lawyer said he would maintain his client’s innocence, then ask the court to drop the proceedings because past experience showed el Motassadeq would not get a fair trial.

Lawyer Josef Graessle-Muenscher told AP he would argue that torture “underlies the interrogation system of the United States,” making any evidence from Binalshibh or Mohammed inadmissible even if it is provided.

He cited reports from prisoners released from U.S. military detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the policy of holding Taliban and al Qaeda suspects without giving them the usual rights of prisoners of war set out in the Geneva Conventions, AP said.

El Motassadeq is accused of helping pay tuition and other bills for members of the Hamburg al Qaeda cell, which included suicide hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, to allow them to live as students as they plotted the attacks.

He admitted training in bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan, and witnesses at his trial testified that he was as radical as the rest of the group, often talking of jihad — holy war — and his hatred of Israel and the United States.

He signed Atta’s will and had power of attorney over al-Shehhi’s bank account.

El Motassadeq has said he was nothing more than close friends with the others and did only things that a good Muslim would do for any “brother.”

CNN’s Chris Burns contributed to this report

 

Binalshibh to go to third country for questioning

September 17, 2002 Posted: 1921 GMT

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — The CIA and FBI are hoping to get key details on al Qaeda operations now that Ramzi Binalshibh — an al Qaeda operative who has acknowledged he participated in the September 11 terror planning — is in their custody.

“The first focus is to find out what he knows,” a senior State Department official said Monday.

Binalshibh, who was captured last week in Pakistan, has been handed over to U.S. authorities and moved out of that country. He is to be taken to an undisclosed third country for further interrogation, officials said.

He has yet to talk in the initial rounds of interrogation. The State Department official said that was not surprising, noting that “dedicated guys” such as Binalshibh generally “don’t spill their guts” right away.

This official would not disclose the location or even the country where Binalshibh is being held, and said U.S. investigators are not pressing for Binalshibh to be brought to the United States at the moment.

Although Binalshibh is not among the senior most wanted al Qaeda leaders, a senior U.S. official said he is a “very, very big fish for us,” a senior official said, both because he is believed to have played a critical role in the September 11 plot and because he is believed to have been in contact with senior al Qaeda leaders since then.

Binalshibh, a Yemeni national, will be questioned by U.S. intelligence officers in an undisclosed location, officials said.

Pakistani government officials told CNN that Binalshibh and about half of the others captured in raids last week in Karachi were taken out of Pakistan by U.S. officials.

“The first focus is to find out what he knows,” said a senior official who has knowledge of the investigation into the al Qaeda network.

One official also said U.S. and Pakistani agents have captured another al Qaeda operative, said to be an associate of another man who was connected with the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 that killed 17 U.S. sailors. However, the operative is not known to have been involved in that attack himself, officials said.

Binalshibh had been in Pakistani custody since his arrest last Wednesday — a year to the day after the hijackings — during a series of raids on suspected al Qaeda homes in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi.

According to officials, he belonged to the same al Qaeda cell based in Hamburg, Germany, that first began plotting the September 11 attacks.

He was also a roommate of lead hijacker Mohammed Atta, who flew American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. According to U.S. investigators, Binalshibh later sent money to at least two of the hijackers — Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi.

Khallad Tawfiq, a suspect in the USS Cole bombing, also led meetings in Malaysia that included two of September 11 hijackers almost two years before the attacks.

The arrests followed dozens of raids across Pakistan over the past months. Pakistani security forces — working in cooperation with the CIA and FBI — have attempted to track down al Qaeda members who crossed into Pakistan after the fall of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan.

Authorities have arrested more than 400 suspects, but Binalshibh is the most prominent al Qaeda member captured to date, officials said.

A State Department official said at the moment U.S. investigators are not pressing for Binalshibh to be brought to the United States.

Germany, which issued an international arrest warrant for Binalshibh, has said it will seek his extradition but would allow any U.S. extradition request to be considered first.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily told reporters Monday, “Wherever he is extradited depends on the country where he is. We are well advised to give the U.S.A. the first choice because the attacks took place in America. We will not make any demands (to go first).”

U.S. officials would not say how they found Binalshibh and the others, but stressed that an interview shown on the Al-Jazeera network given by Binalshibh and another al Qaeda official — Khallid Sheikh Mohammed — had nothing to do with it. “They [Al-Jazeera] didn’t lead us to him,” a senior official said.

Binalshibh acknowledged in the Al-Jazeera interview he played a role in planning the September 11 attacks and had hoped to be one of the hijackers but could not obtain an entry visa into the United States.

In January, when the FBI named Binalshibh as a man it sought, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told CNN’s Larry King that Binalshibh was one of the most-wanted al Qaeda operatives.

“He tried to come to the United States three times and we believe it could well have been that he wanted to be the 20th hijacker,” Ashcroft said.

— CNN Correspondents Kelli Arena, Andrea Koppel, David Ensor and Ash-Har Quraishi contributed to this report