NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — U.S. officials have captured Osama bin Laden’s spokesman in Jordan, Rep. Peter King announced Thursday.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was bin Laden’s son-in-law and was part of the Sept. 11, 2001, plot against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, King told CBS 2’s John Slattery.
King, the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, credited the CIA and FBI with catching the al Qaeda propagandist. He said the capture was confirmed to him by U.S. law enforcement officials.
“Definitely, one by one, we are getting the top echelons of al Qaeda,” Rep. King said. “I give the [Obama] administration credit for this. It’s steady and it’s unrelenting and it’s very successful.”
A law enforcement source told CBS News that Abu Ghaith is scheduled to be arraigned Friday on a sealed indictment in New York City.
Abu Ghaith is still considered a significant figure in al Qaeda’s chain of command and security in Manhattan will be intense.
“Having Abu Ghaith in nyc is going to be the most significant security package we’ve seen here in more than a dozen years, since the trial of the blind sheikh or the embassy bombers. But you also have to realize that the trial itself becomes a potential symbolic target,” CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said.
The same source told CBS News that Abu Ghaith was picked up in Jordan several days ago while traveling to Kuwait from Turkey.
A Jordanian security official confirmed to the Associated Press that Abu Ghaith was handed over last week to U.S. law enforcement officials under both nations’ extradition treaty. He declined to disclose other details and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Abu Ghaith became an international name in late 2001 when he appeared on pan-Arab satellite television urging Muslims everywhere to fight the United States and warning of more attacks similar to those of Sept. 11.
“Where they not only took credit for 9/11 but threatened in Abu Ghaith’s words ‘a storm of airplanes’ in future attacks on the U.S.,” CBS News’ Miller said.
In one video, he was sitting with bin Laden in front of a rock face in Afghanistan. A teacher and mosque preacher in Kuwait, he was stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship after 9/11.
He is identified as a major al Qaeda core official by the New America Foundation think tank in Washington. King said Abu Ghaith was involved in the planning in the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Tom Lynch, a research fellow at the National Defense University in Washington, described Abu Ghaith as one of a small handful of senior Al Qaeda leaders “capable of getting the old band back together and postured for a round of real serious international terror.”
“His capture and extradition not only allows the U.S. to hold — and perhaps try — a reputed al Qaeda core survivor, further tarnishing the AQ core brand, but it also points to the dangers for those few remaining al Qaeda core refugees,” Lynch said.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer applauded the arrest, saying it shows the extent of the United States’ ability to track terror suspects.
“It’s not an accident that, praise God, we have not had a torrist attack in New York since 9/11,” Schumer told CBS 2’s Slattery on Thursday.
Prosecution sources describe Abu Ghaith as someone who did recruiting and certainly knows a lot of people in the terrorism network. Schumer agreed, saying the takedown could help in locating even more dangerous figures.
“And you know, when you catch these guys they may lead you to the bigger fish,” Schumer said.
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