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Key Sept. 11 Figure Binalshibh Captured in Pakistan

Fri Sep 13, 9:01 PM ET

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ramzi Binalshibh, a key al Qaeda member accused of helping plan the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United States, has been captured in Pakistan, U.S. officials said on Friday.

Binalshibh, who is wanted by Germany for his alleged role in planning and carrying out the deadly attacks, is one of the most important members of al Qaeda to be taken into custody over the past year.

A U.S. official said Binalshibh was captured in Karachi around Sept. 11 by Pakistani authorities with help from the FBI ( news - web sites) and CIA ( news - web sites). He was found based on information provided by U.S. intelligence.

U.S. officials have said the Yemeni national, who was refused a visa into the United States at least four times before Sept. 11, wanted to join the 19 hijackers involved in last year's attack.

Binalshibh was one of the roommates of Mohamed Atta -- the suspected ringleader of the hijackers -- in Hamburg. He is also known as Ramzi bin al-Shaibah.

Binalshibh is suspected of helping plan attacks and was very prominent in the Hamburg cell. His capture was considered a significant development in the U.S. goal of destroying the network, the officials said.

Binalshibh was not as high in the organization as Abu Zubaydah, who was captured in Pakistan in March and turned over to U.S. authorities who have been interrogating him at a secret location outside the United States.

'VERY SENSITIVE MATTER' -- US OFFICIAL

It was not immediately clear whether Binalshibh had been turned over to U.S. authorities. One U.S. official declined to say what would happen next, adding, "It's a very sensitive matter."

Binalshibh's capture came just days after a journalist with al-Jazeera Arabic satellite television said he interviewed the Yemeni in or around Karachi. Binalshibh and another key al Qaeda member reportedly affirmed that Osama bin Laden ( news - web sites) was personally involved in planning the Sept. 11 attacks that killed more than 3,000 people.

Yosri Fouda, the al Jazeera journalist who said he interviewed Binalshibh, said the Yemeni claimed to be the coordinator of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Binalshibh said Atta called him on Aug. 29 last year and told him a riddle to set the date of the attacks, Fouda said.

One of the suspected hijackers had tried to enroll Binalshibh in a flight school in Florida. After Binalshibh was unable to get into the United States, the leaders of the plot may have tried to find someone else to take part in the hijacking of the fourth plane, top FBI officials have said.

The airplane that crashed into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11 had only four hijackers. The other three airplanes, which smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon ( news - web sites), each had five hijackers.

Binalshibh is mentioned repeatedly in the indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks.

The indictment mentions at least four times that Binalshibh applied for, and failed to receive, a visa to enter the United States.

It also details various money transfers he made to the hijackers and to Moussaoui.

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