Pakistani intelligence sources say Californian Al Qaeda member arrested

March 8th, 2010 by — Reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani intelligence sources in Karachi said Sunday that security forces in the southern port city have arrested Adam Gadahn, a Southern California native who became a top propagandist for Al Qaeda and is wanted by the U.S. on treason charges.

A U.S. counter-terrorism official said later that the CIA and other agencies “are looking into reports” of Gadahn’s capture, but could not immediately confirm his arrest.

Some reports said the man arrested may have been another American-born Al Qaeda operative.

If the capture of Gadahn was confirmed, it would appear the strongest signal yet that Pakistan has decided to ratchet up its cooperation with the U.S. in hunting down Islamic militants. In the last two months, Pakistani security forces have seized several top Afghan Taliban commanders, including the insurgency’s second in command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.

Baradar’s arrest and the capture of other Taliban leaders also occurred in Karachi, which increasingly has become a favored sanctuary for Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders and militants. Gadahn’s arrest took place on the city’s outskirts, intelligence sources said, on a highway near where Baradar was believed to have been arrested.

Gadahn’s latest video, posted on extremist websites Sunday, urged Muslims serving in the American military to draw inspiration from U.S. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of shooting to death 13 people at the Ft. Hood military base just outside Killeen, Texas, on Nov. 5.

Pakistani sources said Gadahn was arrested in a pickup truck with a driver Saturday night. The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on such issues.

Pakistani police and intelligence agents collaborated on the arrest after receiving information about the suspect’s whereabouts, but the sources would not say where the information came from.

Gadahn, 31, is on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists, and is the first American since the World War II era to be charged with treason. The U.S. government has offered a $1-million reward for information leading to Gadahn’s arrest.

Gadahn was raised on a goat farm in southwest Riverside County. As a teenager, he became profoundly influenced by two radical Muslims linked to a mosque in Orange County. By 1995, Gadahn had converted to Islam, and by 1998 he had moved to Pakistan, where he trained in Al Qaeda camps and later met the terrorist network’s leader, Osama bin Laden.

“We welcome the arrest,” said Salam Al-Marayati, who heads the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, on Sunday afternoon. “This is one step closer to defeating Al Qaeda and defeating the mentality of death and despair, which is alien to Islam.”

Al-Marayati said Gadahn ended up under the influence of the wrong Muslims and has used the religion to make political statements for Al Qaeda.

“I don’t think that what he has been saying has any merit in Islam,” he said. “It is a political ploy.”

In 2006, a federal grand jury in Orange County indicted Gadahn for allegedly providing material support to Al Qaeda by appearing in videos on five different occasions between Oct. 27, 2004, and Sept. 11, 2006, with the intent “to betray the United States,” the indictment stated.

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