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U.S. Has Custody of Al Qaeda Suspect Binalshibh

Aired September 16, 2002 - 10:33   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: As promised, we will check in now with our Andrea Koppel to get the very latest on these important developments in the war on terror.
Good morning, Andrea. What's the word?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Leon.

Well, according to a senior State Department official, the U.S. now does have custody of that senior Al Qaeda operative, Ramzi Binalshibh. This is the guy remember back before 9/11, he is believed to have suppose to have been the 20th hijacker from September 11th. He has been a wanted man for more than a year. And U.S. and Pakistani investigators were able to nab him last week in Pakistan, Along with a number of others.

Now this source tells me, that at the moment, Binalshibh is not talking, but he says, you know, really that is not unusual when you have dedicated guys like him, they generally don't spill their guts right away. This is something that takes quite a bit of time.

As for the possibility of extradition to the United States, as you know, the German government had initially wanted him extradited there. He is a German citizen. Now they have dropped that request, and said, because the attacks happened in the United States, the U.S. has right of first refusal. That is something, however, that is not on the table right now, Leon, because U.S. officials are debriefing him as we speak overseas.

Now in addition, this source has told me, at the same time Ramzi Binalshibh was nabbed in Pakistan, there was yet another senior Al Qaeda operative who was also taken too custody. This man, according to a senior State Department official, was involved in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, so that's another big break for the United States in its investigation into the Al Qaeda worldwide network -- Leon.

HARRIS: It sounds like it's an important development there as well. Andrea Koppel in New York, thank you very much. Appreciate that.

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