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Pakistan captures high-level al Qaeda operative

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, shown in these FBI photos, was captured by Pakistani forces.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan says it has captured a high-level al Qaeda suspect in a stand-off involving hundreds of police.

Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani is wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

The United States had offered a reward for his capture of up to $5 million.

At least 13 other people, including Ghailani's wife, a Uzbek national, were arrested along with him. Ten were non-Pakistanis, security sources said.

A U.S. official in Washington confirmed the arrest but refused to say whether the United States had any role in the capture.

The official did note that the United States "has been working closely with the Pakistanis" and credited the Islamabad government with "stepping up things over the past few months" in its pursuit of terrorists.

The U.S. official said Ghailani had been in Pakistan for a while and described him as a "facilitator and operative" of al Qaeda.

The Pakistani security sources said the arrests took place Sunday morning after a standoff that began Saturday night in Gujrat, just southeast of Islamabad.

The house he was in was surrounded by more than 450 police officers, the sources said.

One man surrendered immediately, but the others refused to come out despite negotiations that went through the night.

They did not give up until after police set fires at the back and sides of the house.

The security sources said a number of local policemen were suspended Wednesday by government officials for having failed to detect the presence of al Qaeda operatives in Gujrat, which is the hometown of the country's prime minister.

Ghailani, 30, was indicted December 16, 1998, along with three other fugitives, in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

The nearly simultaneous bombings on August 7, 1998, killed 213 people in Nairobi, Kenya, and 11 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Among the dead in Nairobi were 12 Americans.

Ghailani is alleged to have purchased the truck that was used to deliver the Dar es Salaam bomb.

He and other co-defendants also were accused of buying oxygen and acetylene tanks for the bomb and of loading the materials into the truck.

Six days before the bombings, hotel records show that Ghailani checked into Nairobi's Hilltop Hilton.

U.S. federal prosecutors say he met there the next day with Mohammed Sadeek Odeh, who was later convicted for his role in the bombings and sentenced to life in prison, and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was charged with carrying out the Kenya bombing and remains a fugitive.

The day before the bombings, Ghailani is believed to have flown from Nairobi to Karachi, Pakistan, according to prosecutors.

Ghailani was one of seven alleged terrorists who were highlighted by Attorney General John Ashcroft in a news conference in Washington on May 26.

Ashcroft said Ghailani had "the skill, ability to undertake attacks both against American interests overseas as well in the United States."

Hayat said Ghailani could be turned over to the United States after Pakistani investigations are completed.

Hayat said officials wanted to be sure of Ghailani's identity before making the capture public.

To date, 23 men have been charged in the embassy bombings. Twelve remain fugitives, including al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

One of those charged is dead, al Qaeda military commander Mohamed Atef, killed by U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan in October 2001.

Four men, including Odeh, were convicted in federal court in New York in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison. Three men are in custody in Britain and are fighting extradition to the United States.

Three others are in U.S. custody, including two who have pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy charges.

CNN's Kelli Arena, Deb Feyerick, Henry Schuster, Phil Hirschkorn and Pam Benson contributed to this report.

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