Pakistani forces capture senior al Qaeda leader Younis al Mauritani in Quetta


Younis al Mauritani. Photo from the Pakistani military.

The Pakistani military claimed it captured Younis al Mauritani, a senior al Qaeda leader suspected of directing attacks against the US, Europe, and Australia, along with two associates during a raid in the southwestern city of Quetta.

The Pakistani Army announced today that al Mauritani and "two other senior Al Qaeda operatives, Abdul Ghaffar Al Shami (Bachar Chama) and Messara Al Shami (Mujahid Amino)" were captured in a joint raid carried out by the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the military's notorious intelligence service, and the Frontier Corps Balochistan. The arrests were "conducted with technical assistance of United States Intelligence Agencies," the Pakistani military's press release stated. The announcement included a grainy file photograph of al Mauritani but did not mention the date of the raid.

Al Mauritani "was tasked personally by Osama Bin Laden to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in United States of America, Europe, and Australia," according to the Pakistani military's announcement.

"He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams, and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in International waters," the press release continued.

US intelligence officials have not confirmed the Pakistani claims that al Mauritani and the two other operatives are in custody.

Last year al Mauritani, who was previously an unknown figure, jumped into the spotlight after he was identified as directing a plot by al Qaeda to attack multiple targets in Europe in a Mumbai-like terror assault. Several news reports incorrectly claimed that he was al Qaeda's so-called "number 3," or third in command. The number 3 designation is often assigned by Western officials and media to al Qaeda's suspected operations chief. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda's #3 misidentified again, for more information.]

But in fact, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal last year that al Mauritani is a senior member of al Qaeda's external operations council, the division that is tasked with hitting the US, Europe, and allied nations. Al Mauritani, Adnan el Shukrijuma, and Ilyas Kashmiri are believed to be the senior-most members of the external operations council. Kashmiri is rumored to have been killed in a Predator strike in early June, but the report has never been confirmed.

The Pakistani military has described al Mauritani's "critical arrest" as "yet another fatal blow [that] has been delivered to al Qaeda." Similarly, top US intelligence officials have claimed that al Qaeda has been dealt near-death blows over the past several months. Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2. And US officials believe that both Atiyah Abd al Rahman, a top al Qaeda leader, and Kashmiri were killed in Predator drone strikes in June and late August, respectively. But Atiyah, who like Kashmiri has been reported killed in the past only to resurface, has not been confirmed dead.


READER COMMENTS: "Pakistani forces capture senior al Qaeda leader Younis al Mauritani in Quetta"

Posted by Mirage at September 5, 2011 10:53 AM ET:

Now, if Pakistan gives them to America, then i will be able to celebrate tonight ;)

Posted by Marlin at September 5, 2011 11:22 AM ET:

To me, the two most interesting aspects of the arrest were 1) it took place in Quetta which the Pakistanis have traditionally made a 'no-go' area for the Americans in the past and 2) it seems it is politically acceptable for the Pakistanis to have the ISI cooperate with the CIA again.

But the military statement said the capture of al-Mauritani was a joint operation, raising the possibility that Islamabad and Washington were working to improve ties.


Imtiaz Gul, a prominent Pakistani security analyst, said the joint operation means intelligence sharing has been restored after Pakistan took steps to limit CIA activities here.

“This is what the situation demanded,” he said.

“The entire Pakistan-US relationship basically revolves around the CIA and ISI and now it appears they are resuming their normal contacts.”

Reuters: Pakistan says senior al Qaeda leader captured

Posted by Don Juice at September 5, 2011 12:22 PM ET:

This article says Shah Sahib has taken over the 313 brigade,maybe Kashmiri did kick the can?

Posted by Nic at September 5, 2011 12:32 PM ET:

To continue Marlin's thread, there must be more to this story, the details of which we will never know. Why the sudden turnabout in the ISI? Can the ISI be parsed into a reliable portion and an unreliable portion? Have there been unpublicized changes in the ISI that have purged the pro-Talib faction? Was this a one-off caused by an internal Talib dispute and the ISI was used to dispose of Mauritania? Many questions and no answers.

Posted by Matt R. at September 5, 2011 12:32 PM ET:

I agree with you Marlin. Hopefully this is a sign that the animosities following the May 2nd Osama raid are behind them and we can step up cooperation so we canfinally strategically knock out AQ. For we all know the heart of AQ is in Pakistan and we will need close cooperation with the Pakistanis to defeat AQ.

Posted by Max at September 5, 2011 12:38 PM ET:

Let's see what happens now.

I predict a show trial to make Pakistan look "anti-terror"; and afterwards, they put him in a cushy cell with all the comforts of home or in "home detention" with guards of his own choosing outside.

Kind of like the treatment they gave to other terror suspects, whom they later let go after a brief time in "detention".

I can't help but be suspicious of everything they do. Pakistan's history is one of being duplicitous, two-faced, and untrustworthy with regard to terrorists.

Posted by Marlin at September 5, 2011 12:49 PM ET:

Mirage -

I don't think you understand. The Obama Administration doesn't want them. Wretchard made the following point about the killing of terrorists via drone strikes in his post of yesterday. However, I believe the same mindset applies to terrorists captured in foreign countries as well.

What’s the difference between Bush and Obama? Obama is willing to lie to a grateful public — at least a sector of it — and many will fall at his feet for lying to them. It’s just like those girls who crave bad boys who proclaim, as Blake Fielder-Civil once said of the deceased Amy Winehouse that “I’m only sad that love wasn’t enough”.

With someone saying those comforting words no one has to stay up nights wondering if this is the same guy who introduced you to drugs and may be leading you down the path to doom. Lies are useful things. Even the human rights activists can feel smug while subconsciously knowing they can sleep safe in their beds while the problem is taken ‘taken care of’.

It may be true that the current President is ordering more hits in foreign countries than any administration since World War 2 but its not in the papers, is it? At least not on the front pages. So nobody gives a damn. Should anybody care? After all, as Scheuer said, killing suspects in far away is way the best way of keeping everyone safe. His beef was that the politicians were never man enough to own up in daylight to what they ordered in the dark. But they’re politicians. They’re paid to lie. People like Scheuer on the other hand, are paid to take the rap.

Belmont Club: The Secret Life of Nations

Posted by Jacknola at September 5, 2011 1:08 PM ET:

I'm shocked.... SHOCKED ... to discover gambling going on in this establishment (your winnings sir...).

Quetta? Terrorists sheltering in Quetta? Say it ain't so...

Posted by BraddS at September 5, 2011 1:39 PM ET:

So Bill, how long are they going to keep him?

Posted by Villiger at September 5, 2011 1:40 PM ET:

Wow how did the Americans manage to convince the ISI to cooperate? Judging by Pak's conciliatory statement, there must have been a cheque held up in Wash DC. No doubt that'll be signed off now tomorrow morning, if it hasn't already happened.

I would rather this guy have been droned out. Would've been a good precedent to expand that foot-print.

As for Rahman, the US says he's gone; the Pakistanis say they don't know him and haven't confirmed. Pak says that Kashmiri has gone; the US hasn't been able to confirm this. So much for the "strong, historic....relationship" of working together.

Posted by Rk at September 5, 2011 2:34 PM ET:

Maybe he thought he was safer in Quetta than FATA, with the birds buzzing overhead

Posted by David Verbryke at September 5, 2011 2:54 PM ET:

This is another punch to an organization that has done so much damage to the world already. Thank God to those men and women of the CIA who are risking their lives and are winning the war on terror, as I salute you.

Posted by Charles at September 5, 2011 3:17 PM ET:

They make it sounds like a take down. But a lot of times when the Pakistanis capture someone--its more like they take them into protective custody--until the heat goes away. Because they're afraid the USA will grab the bad guys.

Posted by Schumi at September 5, 2011 3:23 PM ET:

The remark stating the ISI raid included technical assistance from the US interests me. Pakistan is a large country where it is quite easy to hide from the authorities. If technical assistance was given it would mean Pakistani intelligence sources were not up to the task of finding this man on their own.

How many more raids will occur in that country, or is this a lone instance to secure more US funding for the Pakistani leadership?

Posted by robbie at September 5, 2011 4:47 PM ET:

Thank you Pakistan. I hope this arrest is a true sign of cooperation and migration away from your past history of playing both sides. Al Qaeda and the Taliban will never bring peace and prosperity to Pakistan. They only offer fear, oppression, violence and death.

Posted by BraddS at September 5, 2011 5:01 PM ET:

"He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams, and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in International waters,"

Does anyone remember the oil tanker attack last year where for weeks no one was sure if it was an accident or not, until someone popped up via the MSM to taunt us by saying the attack team escaped and was in a "safe place"? Could this be that guy?

Posted by David at September 5, 2011 5:34 PM ET:

There is nothing to say that they've actually arrested anybody, unless they let us talk to the guy. Even then we don't really know if it is they guy, or some actor, or
some schook they picked up off the street. I think they have been trying many things along these lines. Recently, they reported the capture of "QZR", presumably hoping we would thing of Qari Zia Rehman. Then we have Ilyas Kashmiri's unverified capture, together with a phony photo, and more recently Atiyah's "capture". This looks like a campaign of phony captures.

Ever since the discovery of Osama within walking distance of Krakul, I am convinced that Pakistan is
directing these guys, and that the war we are fighting is really with Pakistan. Which makes me wonder if we can ever beat Al Qaeda by fighting them through Afghanistan, without engaging Pakistan. If we kill every last one of the Talibs and Qaedas, what stops Pakistan from reconstituting the whole thing the moment we leave, with exactly the same intention of attacking us? I hate the idea of leaving Afghanistan while we are achieving significant tactical success, but I am not sure the war can ever be won without engaging Pakistan and forcing them to abandon their jihadi strategy.

Posted by Charu at September 5, 2011 5:36 PM ET:

Their bluff called, the PakMil appears to have put on another coat in order to reopen the dollar pipeline. However, they should be trusted just as far as the next IED built from fertilizer form Pakistan that explodes under our troops. They will handover remnants of the Al Qaeda while protecting their "good" Taliban who continue to shoot us. It is all sleight of hand - watch this Al Qaeda hand as the Pakistanis pull out the Taliban with the other.

Posted by Soccer at September 5, 2011 7:06 PM ET:

Al Qaeda and jihadist forums denied he was captured, and said that "a mujahid" "detonated a martyrdom suicide vest" when the "puppets of Frontier Corps and Pakistani corrupt intelligence services approached the door to the house", and that the attack killed over 80 Frontier Corps and ISI personnel.

Posted by USARMYNAMVET at September 5, 2011 7:12 PM ET:

Jacknola; not so fast Louie!

Posted by James at September 5, 2011 10:11 PM ET:

Lo and behold, only a government like Pakistan would come up with a 'reverse-engineered' hostage taking.

This needs to be looked at with the utmost of suspicious.

It could be a way of them saying to US, "Look America. You be kind and good to us or we will just 'arrange' for this guy to be let loose."

Again, between US and Pakistan, it needs to be treated as a game of, 'who can scr?w who'.

This could also mean that there is a level of trepidation on Pakistan's part concerning something going on behind the scenes between America's and India's intelligence services finally (at long last) cooperating with each other.

I especially pray to Almighty God that the last paragraph above is true.

Posted by Bibhu Prasad Routray at September 5, 2011 10:47 PM ET:

The name is Younis al Mauritani, not Younis al Mauritania. Mauritania is a country.

Posted by Villiger at September 6, 2011 2:44 AM ET:

I agree with you. The litmus test will be when they start getting the Haqqanis and the Hafiz Saeed's of their world. LeT is the next Al Qaeda...wait and watch (at your peril), or eliminate them now.

Posted by Completely Confused at September 6, 2011 7:14 AM ET:

Is it unusual for Al Qaeda members to not resist capture? I would have thought they would ideaologically prefer martyrdom and "going down fighting" to arrest, but maybe I'm wrong. We don't know the details in this story, but I found it odd that UBL apparently stood still and never tried to get a weapon. Definitely not expected, but it makes me wonder ... Is it weird?

Posted by Mr T at September 6, 2011 1:17 PM ET:

They like arrests in Pakistan because they will live to fight another day. They know they will soon be released or allowed to escape when they make their Uncle their prison guard.

This is the new r&r for jihadis. Get taken into custody where the fear of drone attacks is gone. Get a little vacation in India, some renewed sense of purpose, catch up on old times with your jailers, rest, relaxation, then back to the jihad.

Posted by Paul D at September 6, 2011 4:27 PM ET:

Pakistan and Yemen receive money from the West for harbouring then arresting AlQ.They would be skint without western aid.

Posted by Villiger at September 7, 2011 12:16 AM ET:

Panetta, in an al Mauritania story from reuters:

""We have to continue to (put) pressure on al Qaeda. But there is no question that as we celebrate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 that we have made significant progress in weakening al Qaeda," Panetta said."

Celebrate? Or Observe or Commiserate? Has this guy lost the plot, in his new role? Or simply bad reporting?

Posted by Completely Confused at September 7, 2011 4:20 AM ET:

Mr. T,

So you're saying that in UBL's case the reason he allowed himself to be (potentially) arrested was that he thought it was the Pakistanis and they were going to let him go?

Possible, but it still seems weird.

Posted by villiger at September 7, 2011 8:50 AM ET:

Bill, i checked, its not just reuters but also bloomberg and probably others that have carried the same Panetta 'celebrate' quote.

Why didn't these journalists question his choice of word. Isn't commemorate more appropriate. Now, i'm not American, nor an English Professor, but am i missing something?

Don't these media guys have editors?

If it weren't for the fact that its 9/11, no less, we're talking about, i would have let it go.

Maybe Panetta at his age (some several yrs older than Bob Gates) is still on an extended Labor Day w/e and in celebration mode. Or maybe he's been a spy-in-the-closet too long and not used to being surrounded by journalists.

Posted by BraddS at September 7, 2011 4:27 PM ET:

To answer your question Villiger, no, the MSM do not use proofreaders, because that cost's money.

Posted by CDA at September 7, 2011 5:30 PM ET:

You're reading into it too much. Just a small mistake on Panetta's part. People say the wrong words all the time. It just looks worse when its put into text form.

Posted by Cat vs snake at September 16, 2011 12:11 AM ET:

duh duh duh... another one bites the dust...