The indictment against Suleiman Abu Ghaith was unsealed today, according to a statement by Attorney General Eric Holder.
The capture of Abu Ghaith, which came after a decade-long manhunt, was reported earlier today by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. He helped plan al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. and has been among the group’s most influential surviving leaders since U.S. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in May 2011.
Holder called the apprehension of Abu Ghaith as an “important milestone” in counterterrorism efforts. Abu Ghaith is expected to be presented and arraigned tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. before Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America’s enemies to justice,” said Holder. “To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office George Venizelos said Abu Ghaith held a “key position in al-Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime.”
“He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al Qaeda’s murderous cause,” he said in a statement. “He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies.”
“His capture and extradition not only allows the U.S. to hold -- and perhaps try -- a reputed al-Qaeda core survivor, further tarnishing the AQ core ‘brand,’ but it also points to the dangers for those few remaining AQ core refugees,” Thomas Lynch, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is a senior research fellow at the National Defense University, said in an e-mail.
Turkish authorities, acting on information from the CIA, first seized Abu Ghaith more than a month ago at a hotel in Ankara, the Turkish capital, according to U.S. congressional and intelligence officials. A Turkish court subsequently rejected a U.S. request for his extradition and released him on the grounds that he hadn’t been charged with committing any crime in Turkey.
Central Intelligence Agency officers located him after he arrived in Ankara with an Iranian passport and he asked Saudi Arabian diplomats to help his wife and children go to their country, according to the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. His wife is a Saudi citizen.
Abu Ghaith was seized when he attempted to travel to Kuwait from Jordan, a country with which the U.S. maintains close ties, the U.S. officials said.
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