Police recount capturing planner of attacks on U.S.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan -- It was still dark when the small squad of intelligence agents began staking out the apartment block where suspected al-Qaida members had been living for several months. Lightly armed, they decided to wait until daylight.

Fewer than 20 men, the agents and a backup unit of Pakistani police made their move at midmorning, easily capturing two men.

The date was fitting: Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002.

Then a bloody gunbattle erupted, and hand grenades and smoke bombs were thrown.

In the raid, according to U.S. officials, Ramzi Binalshibh, was captured. He was reputedly the logistics and financial planner of the attacks a year earlier in the United States and a prominent figure on the FBI's most wanted list.

Several versions, with minor variations, exist for events leading up to the raid on the five-story apartment block by Pakistani agents of the InterService Intelligence, or ISI, along with CIA operatives. They were related by officials who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

No U.S. personnel were hurt in the raid, American officials said.

Throwing grenades

All versions agree that information discovered in these raids Tuesday led the investigators around 3 a.m. to the apartment building in the Defense area of south Karachi, a middle class neighborhood of rows of buildings with three floors of apartments above street-level shops.

At about 9:30 a.m., the police team seized two men as they left the building. But the arrest was seen from the apartment above, and the other militants grabbed their weapons.

They threw two hand grenades on the raiders, who had to retreat under fire. It was only then that reinforcements were summoned -- by a neighbor who heard the gunfire and called the police hotline.

By the time reporters arrived on the scene close to 10 a.m., hundreds of police were in the surrounding streets and lanes, and on rooftops with a clear view of the building. The cement wall around the top-floor window was peppered with bullet marks.

At least two militants had moved up to the roof and taken position on the northern and western corners, shielded by a low cement barrier. Police tried to fire tear gas canisters onto the roof, but several missed and bounced back onto the policemen below.

Under a screen of smoke grenades, the police made their way to the pavement outside the shops, where they were protected by a three-foot overhang. Commandos in body armor made their way slowly up the stairs.

After more shooting, a security man brought a prisoner to the window and flashed a sign that the battle was over. Police in the street unleashed a fusillade of gunfire into the air in celebration.

The prisoner, in a blue shirt and with his face covered from his forehead to the tip of his nose, was dragged outside and pushed through a cordon of police and journalists.

Seemingly defiant, he shouted slogans in Arabic and tried to wave his fist in the air. His full lips and bearded chin matched photographs of Ramzi Binalshibh.

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