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Pakistan to Hand Over Top Al Qaeda Suspect To U.S. for Prosecution

Associated Press
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 31 -- An al Qaeda operative described by U.S. officials as the terror network's third-ranking official will be handed over to the United States for prosecution, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said Tuesday, ending speculation that he would seek to try the Libyan-born suspect in Pakistan for two assassination attempts against Musharraf.

"We are obviously going to deport him," Musharraf told CNN. "We don't want him in Pakistan."

Abu Faraj al-Libbi, believed to be a close confidant of Osama bin Laden, did not provide any leads on bin Laden's whereabouts during his interrogation, Musharraf said.

"No, he did not provide useful information about Osama bin Laden," Musharraf said. "He says he is not in contact with Osama bin Laden."

He added: "We deport al Qaeda suspects to the United States for further interrogations."

It was not clear when al-Libbi would be turned over or where he was being held.

Al-Libbi and another foreigner were arrested May 2 after a firefight on the outskirts of Mardan, about 40 miles northeast of Peshawar, in the North-West Frontier province, officials said.

A U.S. counterterrorism official said al-Libbi, who allegedly used at least five aliases, was believed to be responsible for planning attacks in the United States.

Despite assertions by U.S. officials of his leadership role in the organization, he did not appear on the FBI list of most wanted terrorists. It was not clear what charges he might face in the United States or whether he has been indicted by any U.S. court.

Al-Libbi, 42, has been identified by Pakistani officials as the principal financier and planner of two December 2003 assassination attempts against Musharraf. The president was unhurt, but 17 people died in the second attack, on Christmas day.

The assassination attempts carry the death penalty in Pakistan.

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