Mar 02, 2003

Arrest Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Bergen: Mohammed capture most significant since 9/11 Sunday, March 2, 2003 Posted: 10:00 AM EST (1500 GMT) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A man believed to be the key planner of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- and linked to nearly every al Qaeda attack in the past five years -- was in U.S. custody Sunday after he was captured in Pakistan. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was among three suspected terrorists arrested early Saturday in a house in Rawalpindi, outside the Pakistani capital, officials said. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen offered his thoughts on Mohammed's arrest. BERGEN: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed actually planned the 9/11 attacks, so that shows how important he is as an al Qaeda leader. Not only that, after 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was involved in attacking a synagogue in Tunisia that killed 14 German tourists. He was also involved in plans to attack Western targets all over Southeast Asia. This guy was the operational leader of al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden may supply the ideology, but Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the guy who was actually providing the operational tools to do these things. We don't know if he'll talk, but if he does, this man is a guy who actually knows what al Qaeda's planning in the future. He may not know where bin Laden is. But the fact is that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is a self-described military commander of al Qaeda, and I think that is a pretty accurate description. This is a man whose nephew Ramzi Yousef was the mastermind for the World Trade Center attack in 1993. So he has been involved in anti-American attacks for more than a decade. His capture is the most significant thing that has happened against al Qaeda since September 11, 2001. I've talked to Pakistani officials. He's not in Pakistan and I don't think he's coming to the United States. There's a technical word called "rendition." He's being rendered to another place. We don't know where it is. But there is a larger point that's essentially that al Qaeda is evolving from an organization to an ideology. So we may capture person A, B, C or D -- on the other hand, al Qaeda is not going to go out of business simply because we have captured Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. There has been speculation that somehow the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed would produce a lot of anti-American attacks. I think that's kind of irrelevant. A war in Iraq would mean many anti-American and anti-Western attacks -- maybe not large-scale. We need to look forward in the next six weeks as it were. Al Qaeda will attempt to produce a major anti-American attack in the context of a war on Iraq. Whether that will be in the United States or somewhere else, we do not know.