Published: June 19, 2002
A senior agent for Al Qaeda with links to the group's former operations chief has been arrested in Morocco, goverment officials said today.
The man, Abu Zubayr, was taken into custody last week, the officials said. He is believed to have been associated with Abu Zubaydah, Al Qaeda's former operations chief, who is being held by the United States. American officials said they were uncertain whether Abu Zubayr was involved in the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
The officials added that while he was not as high-ranking in Al Qaeda's hierarchy as Abu Zubaydah, Abu Zubayr was still one of the most important members of Al Qaeda to be captured, ''maybe one of the top three or four,'' as one official put it.
Officials declined to say whether Abu Zubayr would be turned over to the United States. His nationality could not be determined.
Morocco said last week that it had broken up a plot by Al Qaeda to attack American and British ships in the Strait of Gibraltar.
Three Saudis, said to be members of Al Qaeda, were charged in Morocco on Monday in the plot, in which they were reportedly planning to sail small boats loaded with explosives into the shipping lanes.
Abu Zubayr has been under interrogation by the C.I.A. and F.B.I. for several months and has provided some valuable information, the agencies say. But he has not been cooperative, and his interrogators have had to manipulate him in order to get him to talk, they add. American officials say he is not being tortured.
- Officials said Abu Zubayr had helped to run Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan before Sept. 11. In that role, they said, he worked closely with
- Abu Zubaydah, who screened individuals who wanted to enter the camps and later gave them assignments.
Abu Zubayr's nickname is the Bear, which is not a play on his name but is said to come from the fact that he weighs more than 300 pounds.