ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has arrested a French man reportedly linked to one of the masterminds of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, officials said today, a reminder of the country’s vital role in the war on international jihadist groups at a time of deteriorating relations with the US.
The arrest shows the additional challenges facing a country already trying to salvage its stumbling economy and pull itself out of a deepening political crisis. Following a Supreme Court decision yesterday disqualifying the prime minister over a corruption probe, the president has called for parliament to elect a new premier on Friday.
The French national Naamen Meziche was captured in a raid in the Baluchistan region near the border with Iran, officials said, without specifying when this took place.
Western media reports have described Meziche as an Al-Qaeda operative with links to European jihadist groups. He was believed to have been living in either Pakistan or Iran. CNN and the Wall Street Journal have reported Meziche was a friend of Mohammed Atta, who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center. Meziche does not appear to have had any operational role in the attacks.
The officials did not give their names in keeping with the policy of the Pakistani security forces. The officials said Meziche was a close associate of Younis al-Mauritani, whom Pakistani security forces arrested last year in a joint operation with the CIA. That arrest also took place in Baluchistan. US officials said al-Mauritani was believed to have been plotting attacks in Europe.
A senior Pakistan security official said al-Mauritani’s interrogation led officials to Meziche. He was arrested while trying to flee the country, likely on his way to Somalia, said the official. If Meziche is found to have broken the law in Pakistan, he would be charged and tried inside the country, the official said. Otherwise, he would be deported to France.