KARACHI, Pakistan - Pakistani police have arrested six men linked to al-Qaida, including a Yemeni man wanted in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole, an Interior Ministry official said Wednesday.
Waleed Mohammed Bin Attash, best known as Tawfiq bin Attash or Tawfiq Attash Khallad, was arrested Tuesday during a pair of raids conducted in southern Karachi by Pakistani authorities. The identities of the other suspects were not immediately known.
"This is a big catch. Al-Attash is wanted in the USS Cole bombing," Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema said. "I think he is very important."
A CIA officer once described the suspect, also known as Khallad, as a "major-league killer." He also is missing his right foot.
U.S. intelligence officials said Khallad is suspected of meeting with two of the Sept. 11 hijackers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000. Those hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, were on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
Khallad was in Afghanistan for much of the planning of the attacks and was believed to have moved to Pakistan by late 2002, officials said.
He also is wanted in connection with the suicide attack of the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors. The American destroyer was rammed Oct. 12, 2000, by an explosives-laden dinghy while refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. The attack was blamed on al-Qaida.
Cheema said all six suspects still are in Pakistan.
U.S. law enforcement agencies have not yet questioned the suspects, Cheema told The Associated Press in the capital, Islamabad.
The raids "were solely a Pakistani operation," Cheema said. "We didn't say anything before now because we wanted to see whether we could make more arrests."
Pakistani authorities also recovered 330 pounds of explosives and a large quantity of arms and ammunitions "intended to be used for terrorist attacks," said a statement by Cheema's National Crisis Management Cell, which oversees Pakistan's anti-terrorist activities.
"The recovered items indicate the magnitude" of those planned attacks, the statement said.
U.S. intelligence sources previously said that it feared al-Qaida fugitives who fled the U.S.-led coalition's war on terror in neighboring Afghanistan had found a safe haven in southern Karachi, Pakistan's largest city of 14 million people.
Several top al-Qaida members have been captured in Pakistan.
Last September, Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected planner of the attacks in the United States, was captured after a gun battle in southern Karachi.
In March 2002, Abu Zubaydah, once Osama bin Laden's top terror coordinator, was caught in the city of Faisalabad.
Last month, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, was seized in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.
Two weeks later, another key al-Qaida man, Yassir al-Jaziri, was captured in the eastern city of Lahore. Al-Jaziri was described as a key subordinate who facilitated communications between al-Qaida operatives.
Al-Jaziri was among the top two dozen most-wanted al-Qaida men.
Pakistan has been a key U.S. ally in the global war on terror. It stopped supporting Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime before the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and al-Qaida started in October 2001.
Since then, Pakistan has arrested more than 450 suspected al-Qaida and Taliban within its borders.