Pakistan may quickly release an American construction worker in poor health who is being held on suspicion of wanting to kill Osama bin Laden, a senior official said Friday.
Gary Brooks Faulkner was arrested Monday in the remote mountains of Chitral, once a rumoured hiding place of bin Laden, near the Afghan border, armed with a pistol, dagger, long sword and night-vision equipment.
Faulkner purportedly told police he was on a solo mission to hunt down bin Laden, the world's most wanted man with a 25 million dollar bounty on his head, and he has become known in the United States as "the American Ninja".
"Faulkner is still in Pakistan's custody and is being interrogated," a senior Pakistani official said on condition of anonymity.
"The US national will be released if nothing substantive is found against him after the interrogation."
Asked if he would be handed over to the US embassy, the official said: "It should be done sooner than later because Faulkner is sick."
US consular officials met Faulkner in Islamabad on Thursday. A Christian believer, he suffers from high blood pressure and kidney problems, which relatives say requires dialysis.
The Pakistani official said Faulkner's weapons had raised alarm bells, but that he had posed no problems on previous visits to Pakistan, another indication that authorities may be thinking about an imminent release.
Brother Scott Faulkner told CNN that Gary Faulkner had been motivated to hunt bin Laden by patriotism and a belief in God, saying he was not crazy, psychotic or schizophrenic.
The long-haired Faulkner was intially questioned in Chitral, then interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agents in Peshawar, where he underwent medical tests on Wednesday, and then moved to Islamabad.