by Florian Flade
He is one of Al-Qaida´s most shadowy and mysterious figures in the Pakistani tribal areas – Sheikh Younis Mohammed al-Mauretani.
Pakistan´s military forces today announced Al-Mauretani´s arrest in a written statement, saying the North African Al-Qaida operative was captured in the city of Quetta close to the Afghan border. Along with al-Mauretani two other Arab Al-Qaida members, named Abdul Ghaffar Al Shami (Bachar Chama) and Messara Al Shami (Mujahid Amino) were arrested. No Details were given on these two men.
Sheikh Younis al-Mauretani was labeled Al-Qaida´s Chief of External Operations by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, holding one of the most important positions within the terrorist network. „He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams, and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speed boats in International waters“, the Pakistani ISI claims in a statement. Cooperation with the CIA led to the arrest of Al-Mauretani, the statement further explains.
Counter-terrorism officials in the USA and Pakistan believe al-Mauretani was in direct contact with Bin Laden until US Navy SEALs killed the Al-Qaida leader in May. Inside the Abbottabad compound were Bin Laden was hiding, documents were found which are confirming that al-Mauretani was the mastermind behind a 2010 terrorist plot to target European economy. A strategy paper written by Al-Mauretani suggested to hit especially economic targets in the West to harm the USA and Europe. From what is known it seems Bin Laden approved this plan and promised the financing of the terror attacks.
Most of what is known about Al-Mauretani was revealed during the interrogation of two German terror suspects arrested last year. Ahmad Wali Siddiqi and Rami Makanesi from Hamburg had traveled to the Waziristan terrorist training camps in March 2009. Both of them met Al-Mauretani in early 2010 when the Al-Qaida operative was searching for Western recruits. „Al-Qaida´s No.3 – Foreign Minister“ – Al-Mauretani introduced himself to the Jihadis from Germany.
Makanesi describes al-Mauretani as a skinny, tall person with a calm manner, well-spoken and intelligent. „What we have are planning, not even the devil has in mind“, al-Mauretani had told the German terrorists in Waziristan according to Makanesi and Siddiqi. He later outlined his „Europe Plot“ to them, telling them about his idea of striking economic targets in various European countries.
In January or February 2010 Sheikh al-Mauretani had met another German Jihadi who arrived at the Al-Qaida training camps – Abdelkarim el-K., a Moroccan who lived and studied in Düsseldorf. After returning to Germany El-K. formed a terrorist cell he became the leader of. While the group planned to obtain or produce explosives El-K. tried to contact the Al-Qaida commanders in Waziristan for advice. One of the people he tried to contact but could not reach was none other than Al-Mauretani.
In addition to what Makanesi and Siddiqi told German and American intelligence most information available on al-Mauretani is believed to be rumors and unconfirmed reports by Arab intelligence agencies. Some sources say the Mauretanian Al-Qaida suspect had studied in Egypt and later left the country to join Bin Laden in Afghanistan. Others say al-Mauretani lived in Saudi-Arabia before coming to Waziristan and that he owned a football club there.