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Senior al Qaeda leader captured in Pakistan

world Updated: Sep 05, 2011 19:33 IST

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Pakistan said on Monday its main intelligence service has captured a "senior al Qaeda leader" named Younis al- Mauritani, who it said was responsible for conducting international operations and had been ordered by Osama bin Laden to hit American, European and Australian economic interests.

Pakistan's military, describing the capture as "another fatal blow" to the militant group, said in a statement that two other senior al Qaeda operatives were also detained.

It was not possible to immediately verify the report.

"He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in international waters," the military said in a statement.

Pakistan has been under intense pressure from its ally the United States to crack down harder on al Qaeda and other militant groups since American special forces found bin Laden in a Pakistani town in May and killed him in a secret raid.

The bin Laden operation severely strained ties between Washington and Islamabad. Pakistan was kept in the dark, and the raid raised angry questions in Washington on whether Pakistan's intelligence agencies knew bin Laden was living there.

But the statement said the capture of al-Mauritani was a joint operation, raising the possibility that ties had improved. "This operation was planned and conducted with technical assistance of United State intelligence agencies with whom (Pakistan's) Inter-Services Intelligence agency has a strong, historic intelligence relationship," said the military statement.

"Both Pakistan and United States intelligence agencies continue to work closely together to enhance security of their respective nations."

US officials have said al Qaeda's deputy chief, Libyan national Atiyah abd al-Rahman, was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan near the Afghan border on Aug. 22. But Pakistan officials have not confirmed his death.