$200,000 BOUNTY AND NO ONE KNEW
$200,000 BOUNTY AND NO ONE KNEW ABOUT IT?
Al-Qaeda Figure Moved Freely in Pakistan
Commander Killed Last Week Had Lived in Northwest for Years
Monday, February 4, 2008; Page A01
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Feb. 3 -- A Libyan al-Qaeda commander who was killed last week in northwestern Pakistan had lived there for years and, despite a $200,000 U.S. bounty on his head, felt secure enough to meet officials and visit hospitals, according to officials and residents of this city.
As he organized suicide bombings and other attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi found a comfortable refuge in Pakistan's border region, the sources said in interviews. He met openly with a Pakistani politician and a Libyan diplomat and called on foreign fighters recovering from their wounds.
The Pakistani government contends it has been doing everything possible to capture al-Qaeda figures within its borders. But Libi, who was killed in a missile attack last week, moved unchallenged around the heart of Peshawar, a city of about 1.2 million people, underscoring how freely he and other al-Qaeda leaders have been able to operate in Pakistan.
One day in 2006, Libi strode into the central prison in Peshawar, the administrative capital of North-West Frontier Province. As another Libyan fighter sat nearby behind bars -- in the custody of Pakistani authorities -- Libi, the politician and the Libyan diplomat argued over whether the man should be deported against his wishes to Libya or released to fight another day, according to Javed Ibrahim Paracha, the politician who helped arrange the meeting.
"I knew Abu Laith for quite some time," said Paracha, a former member of the Pakistan National Assembly who is running for a parliamentary seat again in elections this month.