From the New York Daily News, “Al Qaeda bust’s a blow to terror,” .
WASHINGTON – The capture this month of one of Al Qaeda’s top commanders has led to the arrests of at least 17 more suspects, including a trusted “courier” for the group’s top leaders.
The courier, terrorist hunters hope, may bring them one step closer to Osama Bin Laden.
A notebook seized during the May 2 capture of Abu Faraj al-Libbi had coded entries, including names, and is being analyzed by a joint FBI and CIA exploitation unit in Virginia, sources said.
Al-Libbi has clammed up since his arrest, but at least 17 people – including some named in the notebook – have been rolled up.
One who was grabbed is an Uzbek operative who is suspected of being assigned to carry messages between top Al Qaeda leaders, a senior Pakistani official told the Daily News.
Officials have learned the Uzbek was in the U.S. prior to the Sept. 11 terror attacks to help an associate under arrest, another source said. Details of the trip were not available.
A U.S. counterterrorism official confirmed that the Uzbek man “was a courier” for al-Libbi. The source also said the presence of an Uzbek in the top ranks of the terror group proved reports of a rift in Al Qaeda between Arabs and Uzbek fighters “is wrong.”
Uzbek and Chechen operatives of Al Qaeda have been known to marry into Pashtun tribal families in Pakistan’s craggy northern frontier, ensuring their loyalty and protection. The CIA has long suspected Bin Laden was hiding there, along the border with Afghanistan.
But the Pakistani official said there are growing suspicions Bin Laden joined his son Saad in Iran long ago, since “there are no rumors he’s been seen” in Pakistan’s rough terrain…
“There would’ve at least been strong rumors and reports” of Bin Laden in Pakistan’s northern frontier, he said, “and there haven’t been any.”
“They don’t know where he is,” Cannistraro added…