Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) arrested three senior members of al-Qaeda in an operation assisted by American intelligence, the Pakistani army said Monday.
An army statement identified the most senior detainee as Younis al-Mauritani, who it said been tasked by Osama bin Laden with targeting Western economic interests worldwide. The statement said the arrests took place in the southwestern city of Quetta, but did not say when.
The ISI has cooperated with the CIA over the last 10 years to arrest scores of al-Qaeda suspects, but ties between the two agencies have suffered greatly in recent months over CIA drone strikes inside Pakistani territory and the unilateral American raid that killed bin Laden. The unusual announcement of the arrest of the three appears to signal that the relationship could be warming.
“This operation was planned and conducted with technical assistance of United State Intelligence Agencies with whom Inter-Services Intelligence has a strong, historic intelligence relationship. Both Pakistan and United States Intelligence agencies continue to work closely together to enhance security of their respective nations,” the statement said.
Many top al-Qaeda commanders are believed to live in Pakistan, and getting Islamabad’s cooperation in cracking down on the network has been a top American goal since the September 11, 2001, attacks. U.S. officials have recently claimed that al-Qaeda’s capabilities have been seriously weakened due to drone strikes and arrests in recent years.