Al Qaeda operative arrested in Karachi was ‘courier’ between bin Laden, Zawahiri: Pakistani officials

A “senior al Qaeda commander” recently captured by Pakistani security officials served as a courier between slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin laden and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri.

Yesterday, the Pakistani military, via its Inter-Service Public Relations directorate, took the unusual step of announcing the capture of Muhammad Ali Qasim Yaqub, a Yemeni citizen who is also known as Abu Sohaib Al Makki, during a raid in the southern port city of Karachi.

The Pakistani military provided little detail on Yaqub. He was described as both a “senior al Qaeda operative” and a “senior al Qaeda commander” who was “working directly under al Qaeda leaders along Pak-Afghan borders.”

“The arrest of Al Makki [Yaqub] is a major development in unraveling the al Qaeda Network operating in the region,” the brief ISPR statement concluded.

Unnamed Pakistani military officials later told BBC that Yaqub was arrested on May 4, just two days after Osama bin Laden was killed during a raid in Abbottabad.

Yaqub was described as a mid-level al Qaeda operative and a “key courier” who facilitated communications between bin Laden and Zawahiri.

“Fluent in Pashtu and Urdu, he was allegedly one of the main couriers between bin Laden and Zawahiri, and helped al Qaeda leaders travel between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the BBC reported. “He is also said to have been an important recruiter, which led to him traveling abroad frequently.” He also was an “explosives expert, according to Dawn.

Pakistani officials said Yaqub entered Pakistan in 2001 and has lived in Karachi with his wife and three children “for some time,” Dawn reported. Yaqub “moved around Pakistan to avoid detection, living in Abbottabad – where bin Laden was found – Faisalabad, Peshawar and Karachi,” according to the BBC.

Yaqub is also said to be linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ideologue Anwar al Awlaki and to Ramsi bin Alshib, the key facilitator in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US who is currently in US custody at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Bin Alshib was also captured in Karachi, in September 2002.

The announcement of Yaqub’s capture appears to be part of an effort by the Pakistani military to show it is capable of reining in al Qaeda. In the past, the Pakistani military has not issued press releases on senior al Qaeda operatives who have been killed or captured [see Threat Matrix report, Pakistani Army arrests ‘senior al Qaeda commander’ in Karachi].

Pakistan has yet to allow US intelligence officials to interrogate Yaqub.

Yaqub’s capture takes place as US and Pakistan relations are at an all-time low. Pakistan has been under considerable pressure to demonstrate to the US and the West it is indeed relevant in the fight against al Qaeda after bin Laden was found living with his family in a large compound in Abbottabad for over six years. The US launched a unilateral raid to kill bin Laden and did not notify Pakistani officials as the US feared bin Laden would be tipped off.

Pakistani officials are privately admitting they must demonstrate their commitment to fight al Qaeda to the US.

“The whole Osama issue has been very embarrassing for us, and that is why we have significantly stepped up efforts to capture any militants that may be hiding here,” a Pakistani military official told Dawn.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    The Pakistani’s are being pressured now. Would they be considered a state sponsor of terror. Saleh’s interview just confirmed wat many have thought or known. Pakistan IS the problem.

  • Charles says:

    This sounds increasingly like the guy is in protective custody to keep him away from the USA.
    The longer the Paks hold him the colder grows the trail for Zawahiri.
    He also provides leverage in negotiations Paks make for billing the US for services not rendered. Because that news just came out in the last day. So likely the two news articles are related.
    So the longer the Paks hold the guy, the less valuable he becomes to them in negotiations with the US.
    Really, the extortion business seems to be the only one the Paks know. Somebody should suggest to the Paks that they send top mid level and junior ISI people to mining school. There’s more money it. They’ll get more respect.

  • Paul D says:

    I bet ex Gen Hamid Gul knows where Omar and Zawahiri are hiding in Pakistan!
    Have we bugged/watched his home for more intel?

  • Charu says:

    Agree with Charles; the ISI preemptively took him into protective custody to keep us from getting intel on Zawahiri. This is truly a Mafia state! Why are we paying them billions to undermine us? If John Kerry is so much in love with the Pakistanis, he should give them his own money instead of ours; that is if Teresa Heinz would let him. God save us from the Kerrys and Mullens of this world.

  • Eddie D. says:

    All of a sudden, Pakistan is able to find these guys, tell me they aren’t worried about losing some U.S. cash.
    The U.S. withhold aid to Pakistan for 1 day they would capture Zawahiri and 2 days they would give up Mullar Omar himself; 3 days the militants would be turning each other in.

  • Mr T says:

    Oh, so now they are stepping up efforts? How did they find this guy? Did we tell them? Why have they not allowed us immediate access to this guy? If he lived in Abbottabad and those other places, thats probably where AZ and Omar are.
    I still can’t figure if they are more upset that we invaded their sovereignty or that Bin Laden was actually hiding in their country after their repeated denials. It seems to be they are more concerned about the embarrasment of having their space invaded.
    Well, thats no embarrassment. We are the most technologically advanced military in the world. After 10 years of war, even more so.
    Yes, we can do things like that and more. Get over it and remember, we can do things so stop messing with us.
    Their motives are pretty clear to me. Global jihad to establish a global caliphate is their goal. All their obfuscation does not change that fact. We are on to them and the noose is tightening. Its time to give it up and join the modern world.
    We want AZ, Omar, and Siraj as well as a few other bad actors. We also want Pakistan to stop their support of violent jihad and to start working on replacing violence with peace. No more roving gangs of men with machine guns, bombs, and rocket launchers roaming the countryside killing people.

  • Frank Scarn says:

    Break out the ol’ water board and towels. There’s info to be had.

  • Cujat13 says:

    So they are helping us by announcing his capture and giving his contacts a heads up that its time to cover their tracks and disappear!?

  • Max says:

    I think the comments are right on target. It sure seems suspicious that instead of allowing this ‘courier’ to lead them to Zawahiri, they captured him and made a big publicity stunt out of it to make it look like they’re doing something, allowing Zawahiri to get away once again. The Pak government and ISI are as trustworthy as a Cobra snake.

  • Mifi Gio says:

    No doubt that Pakistna need to do something. They are under pressure now. Hope what they are going to do is the right thing

  • Fahim says:

    Please Dont TRUST Pakistan, Pakistan is a resource for Taliban and Al qaide. let get united and drop off bombs in Pakistan Palace and kill all Al qaide’s supportives , then the world will be in paece NO Al qaie NO Taliban NO Islamic millitants

  • Jimmy says:

    China is unequivocally backing Pakistan against the US – sort of a mini-NATO.
    Now, who does not believe the story that Pakistan’s shenanigans are at the behest and support of China? China is the pupet master – It uses N.Korea and Pakistan to rattle S.Korea & Japan and India & NATO respectively. On top of that, we are sending more and more of our allies straight into their arms by disastrous wars in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc etc etc…..

  • Guptan says:

    Charles,He could have been in ISI protective custody since long. The news was given to appease US that Pakistan is taking action. As said he must have been sent underground to stop any US questioning of the prisoner. Pakistan knows very well to milk US.

  • Jimmy says:

    Here is more proof of the collusion of the Pak-Chinese terror machinery against the civilized world:
    I bet many parts of that stealth aircraft will be based on the US stealth helicopter used in the Osama raid – which would have already been passed on by the Pakistan Army to the Chinese…
    Stop buying Chinese goods!

  • kp says:

    Although on the other thread I commented that it was interesting that they make a big noise when they’ve caught him it’s also possible that he was captured after the May 2 UBL raid (or even before?) and this is only being announced now post-interrogation.

    If he was a UBL courier it is possible that this is based on post-UBL raid intel. Either directly or perhaps with SIGINT? Looking at phone numbers/SIM cards captured int he raid. The BBC said “He had a satellite phone and a tracking device, which they said had yielded new information about al-Qaeda’s activities in the region.”

    The Abbottabad connection is also interesting. Perhaps he was observed at the Abbotobad house (some stories mentioning Abbotobad as a residence) but later lost?

    Or he may have been traced and/or captured a while ago and his significance just discovered?

    Or (as the BBC says “He was involved in planning attacks on Saudi interests in Pakistan”). Perhaps the investigation of the recent Saudi assassinations in Karachi lead them to him? That would be dumb but interesting.


    Plus there are links to Yemen and al Alawaki. Curious that UBL is killed, next day AA narrowly escapes a persistent drone attack in Yemen and then this UBL/AZ courier who knows AA is announced captured. Coincidence?

    The other comments on the BBC about him being the new senior al-Qaeda operational commander after the killing in a drone strike in May 2010 of Mustafa Abu Yazid, also known as Said al-Masri is very interesting too.

    This may be a Pakistani capture based on US intel but letting the Pakistani’s recover some face (and perhaps show if they’re interesting in cooperating) by letting them do the announcement.

    Just another view point … fits the (very few) facts we have. But this looks like a very interesting capture (rather than a kill).

  • kp says:

    Bill provide this link in the new links but it’s relevant here:


    The exact date of arrest is being kept secret because security agencies are working to unearth his

  • Jimmy says:

    Read this bit about China’s flood and earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan. It is anybody’s guess that these relief personnel are actually PLA soldiers, doctors and engineers spying on Afghan, American, NATO and Indian establishments at the borders with Pakistan!
    Again – Let us stop naked cash and weapons aid to Pakistan and stop buying Chinese goods!

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    I was just reading an article about the Chinese presence in Pakistan. JIMMY you are probably right. The Chicoms love to see us squirm, and use the Norks and the Paki’s to do it. I wonder how those Chinese workers will be welcomed in Pak, where there are no jobs?? The Chinese bring their OWN workers. A marriage made in heaven.

  • Jimmy says:

    You are right! Pakistani public must be really angry with Chinese coming and taking their jobs. But who cares about the ordinary poor Pakistanis? Their own army ISI treats them as cannon fodder (where is amnesty international when you need it?).
    Pakistan Army ISI is nobody’s friend. It is a master of creating the illusion of fear and uses the insecurity of one super-power against another (earning a beggar’s living in return) and then discarding that power when all life has been sucked out of it. It is similar to a python which gobbles up its victim whole and then spits out the unwanted skeleton when it has sucked up the juicy flesh. It is doing just that with America now.
    On the other hand, China is naively tying an anvil around its own neck by partnering with Pakistan. It is trying to keep a snake as its pet…but one day this snake is going to bite it in its ASS (Xinjiang)!

  • JohnHunt says:

    Is anyone considering the possibility that the US turned him in to the Pakistanis because they are able to get quick information from him using means that we won’t ourselves use?


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