KABUL, Afghanistan -- A top Al Qaeda strategist with a $5 million bounty on his head and followers from Afghanistan to Europe was captured last fall in Pakistan, a US law enforcement official confirmed.
Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, who once wrote a 1,600-page autobiographical book on ways to attack Islam's enemies, has been flown out of the country after being interrogated by Pakistani and American authorities, Pakistani officials said yesterday. They did not specify where he was taken.
Terror analysts said Nasar's capture has dealt a blow to Al Qaeda and other militant movements he aided through his virulent anti-Western writings and weapons training. His movements have been traced to Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and two European capitals.
Nasar, a 47-year-old Syrian-Spanish national, was seized in the southwestern Pakistan city of Quetta in November 2005, said the American official, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. Nasar was arrested in a sting operation, which sparked a gunfight in which one person was killed, the official said.
The raid apparently took place Nov. 1. At the time, Pakistani officials said they had captured two possible Al Qaeda suspects and a third man with ties to a Pakistani extremist group. Intelligence officials had said they were investigating whether one of the suspects was Nasar.
Nasar, an Islamic ideologue wanted by American and Spanish authorities for terror-related activities, ''may have been turned over to the US" after his capture, the American official told the AP late last week. He would not say where Nasar may have been sent, and US officials in Washington declined to comment yesterday.
Pakistani and American officials have long been tightlipped on the status of Nasar, described by the US Justice Department as a former trainer at Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan who helped teach extremists to use poisons and chemicals before the US-led invasion of this country after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The Syrian native's dual citizenship -- he was married to a Spanish woman -- and his Western appearance made him difficult to find. His looks could resemble an Irish pub patron -- red hair, light skin, stocky build. When he grew out his beard, Nasar -- whose aliases ranged from Abu Musab al-Suri to Blond Blond -- blended into Islamic society.
Previous reports indicated his journey into extremism began in the 1980s when he joined radical groups including the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has opposed the Syrian government and developed ties with terror groups.
By 1988, Nasar was with the mujahedeen fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden and became a leader of the Syrians associated with early Al Qaeda, Spanish court documents say. When bin Laden moved his operations to Sudan in 1991, Nasar was known to visit.