Top Al-Qaeda Strategist In Custody, Official Says

Associated Press
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan, May 2 -- A top al-Qaeda strategist with a $5 million bounty on his head was captured in Pakistan last November and flown out of the country to an undisclosed location, a U.S. law enforcement official said.

Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, 47, who holds dual Syrian and Spanish citizenship, wrote a 1,600-page autobiographical book on ways to attack Islam's enemies. The U.S. Justice Department described him as a former trainer at Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.

Terrorism analysts said Nasar's capture has dealt a blow to al-Qaeda and other militant movements he aided through his virulent anti-Western writings and weapons training. His movements have been traced to Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and two European capitals.

Nasar was seized in a sting operation in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in November, said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official said Nasar had been flown out of Pakistan to an undisclosed destination "some time ago."

"I only know that he is not here. But I do know that Syrian authorities had also requested to get him back," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Syrian authorities were not immediately available for comment. Spain's ambassador to Pakistan, Jose-Maria Robles, said his country had sought information from Pakistan about Nasar's reported arrest in November but received no official reply. Spanish authorities have previously said Nasar may have played a pivotal role in the 2004 commuter train bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people.

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