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Pakistan arrests French man, Naamen Meziche, accused of Qaeda ties

Western media reports have described Naamen Meziche as an al-Qaeda operative with links to European jihadi groups. (AP)

By Al Arabiya & Agencies | 20 Jun 2012

Pakistan has captured “important” al-Qaeda leader, Naamen Meziche, during an operation near the Pakistan-Iran border, officials said on Wednesday, without specifying exactly when this had happened.

Meziche was detained with two other ranking operatives in the suburbs of Quetta, the main city in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province that borders Iran.

The arrest comes as a reminder of Pakistan’s vital role in the war on international jihadist groups at a time of deteriorating relations with the U.S., security forces.

The officials said Meziche was a close associate of Younis al-Mauritani, who Pakistani security forces arrested in September last year in a joint operation with the CIA. That arrest also took place in Baluchistan, which borders Iran.

The Pakistani official said Meziche was arrested after Mauritani told interrogators that the Frenchman had entered Pakistan from Iran and intended to travel onto Africa.

“The intelligence agencies have been tracking Meziche since then, and at last, after a successful operation he was arrested. At the moment he is being questioned about his purpose for entering Pakistan,” the official said, according to AFP news agency.

U.S. officials have said Mauritani was believed to have been plotting attacks in Europe. It is unclear where Mauritani is now being held.

Western media reports have described Meziche as an al-Qaeda operative with links to European jihadi groups believed to have been living until now in either Pakistan or Iran.

The arrest highlights the Pakistani security forces’ key role in the anti-al-Qaeda campaign, even as the U.S. and Pakistan are going through one of the rockiest stages in their relationship since the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S. The Navy SEAL raid on the Pakistan garrison city of Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden last year raised questions about whether Pakistani security officials at some level knew of the al-Al-Qaeda leader’s presence in their country. On the Pakistani side, the raid infuriated the military because it was not told about the attack ahead of time and once it happened, was powerless to stop it.

Tensions increased even further in November when U.S. forces accidentally killed 24 Pakistani border troops, prompting Pakistan to close supply lines to American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Those supply lines remain closed to this day as Pakistan demands an apology from the U.S. for the deaths.

Who is Naamen Meziche?

According to a profile on Global Jihad’s website, Meziche was born in Paris in 1970 and is of Algerian descent.

While living in Hamburg in Germany, he frequented al-Quds mosque which was reported as a “breeding ground of the notorious Hamburg Cell” reports the website. His father-in-law was reported as the mosque’s former imam and was known as the spiritual father of the Hamburg cell that led the Sept. 11 attacks, according to police reports reviewed by The Wall Street Journal in 2010.

Fazazi was sentenced to 30 years in prison in Morocco for inciting the 2003 bombings in Casablanca that killed 45 people.

Meziche was questioned by German authorities in 2003 for purported links to the 9/11 attacks based on evidence it had on him having received a phone call a week prior to the event from the attack’s coordinator, Ramzi Binalshibh.

However, one year later, the case was suspended and Meziche was never indicted. The Wall Street Journal wrote in 2010 that his case “underscore[s] the struggles German authorities have had in putting together cases against homegrown jihadists.”.

Meziche is believed to have recruited people for organizations linked to al-Qaeda like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

He was “secretly classified” as a threat in 2003 by the German government but an investigation was suspended a year later. According to Der Spiegel he traveled to Pakistan in March 2009 to attend training camps.



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