Reports from Pakistan indicate that senior al Qaeda operative Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri (the Syrian), has been arrested in a raid. Andrew Cochran has a roundup of links at The Counterterrorism Blog, including a profile by Evan Kohlmann and a discussion by The Investigative Project‘s Lorenzo Vidino on al-Suri’s relationship al Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Athena of Terrorism Unveiled has further background information, including a profile of al-Suri.
Al Suri has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the Taliban, al Qaeda, the European Tawhid network and Jund al-Sham, which morphed into Ansar al-Islam. He was an early suspect in the Madrid 3/11 bombings. He was responsible for developing al Qaeda’s chemical weapons program in Afghanistan and ran a terrorist training camp to school operatives in the uses of such weapons.
Pakistan is often accused of being a less than reliable ally in the War on Terror, and has been accused of staging high profile arrests at opportune times to “prove” they are in our camp. Pakistan’s reluctance to dismantle al Qaeda affiliate Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) gives Pakistan’s critics good reason to question their commitment. One thing is clear: Pakistan, along with Iran, is a major hub for al Qaeda’s operational commanders.
But the arrest or deaths of high profile al Qaeda commanders such as Khalid Sheihk Mohammed, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and Amjad Hussain Farooqi, along with over 700 al Qaeda operatives cannot be discounted. These are senior, experienced, well connected leaders, many of whom are directly related to the planning of 9/11 and other al Qaeda led attacks worldwide.
The arrest of al-Suri, if true, is a welcome development in the War on Terror. There is no word on whether laptops, data storage, notebooks or other data storage devices pertaining to al Qaeda’s operations were seized. If he can be cracked, he can possibly divulge intimate knowledge on al Qaeda’s WMD programs as well as its networks throughout Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.