The man believed to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks is now in U.S. custody. Intelligence officials say his arrest is a major blow to the al Qaeda terrorist network.
Meanwhile, Iraq began to destroy its al Samoud 2 missiles over the weekend in an effort to comply with a demand from U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix. But the Iraqis warned they would cease disposing of the weapons if the U.S. continues its military buildup in the region.
And in Turkey the country's parliament rejected a plan to host 62,000 U.S. troops on its soil. The move could greatly complicate the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region and perhaps slow plans for a possible invasion of Iraq.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's chief of operations, was captured Saturday in Pakistan during a raid by CIA and Pakistani police. He is believed to have planned the attacks of September 11 on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. As a result, he has long been on the F.B.I.'s most wanted list.
Mohammed's role in al Qaeda reportedly extended well beyond the 9/11 planning, U.S. officials say. He served as chief recruiter and communications hub for the terrorist organization. Over 100 suspected operatives the U.S. has arrested are said to have spoken with Mohammed prior to being captured. It is believed that Mohammed has played a role in the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and the attack on the USS Cole, a Navy ship that was stationed in Yemen, in 2000. He is also suspected of being involved in the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan last year.
Intelligence officials and congressional leaders were ecstatic about the news of Mohammed's arrest. "This is a giant step backward for the al Qaeda," said Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Now their operations commander is simply out of operations," he told the public affairs program "Fox News Sunday."
Mohammed is currently being held at an undisclosed location, according to U.S. officials who hope to discover through interrogations what, if any, future attacks he may have already planned. "We don't sanction torture but there are psychological and other ways that we can get most of what we need," said Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Officials say they are concerned about al Qaeda reprisals for Mohammed's arrest. They say they are unsure how many future attacks he may have planned before being taken into custody.
Missiles Crushed in Iraq
In Iraq, the process of destroying the al Samoud 2 missiles continues under the supervision of the U.N. Over the weekend, Iraq crushed 10 of the missiles. On Monday, it said it planned to destroy another seven to nine. All told, the Iraqis are believed to have a stockpile of over 100 of the weapons.
Iraq also destroyed two casting chambers over the weekend that could be used in the development of a different kind of missile. Iraq has pledged to complete the elimination of all the missiles and missile-making materials in coming weeks.
The moves were meant to comply with Hans Blix's demand that Iraq start to eliminate its al Samoud 2 stocks by March 1. But an Iraqi official said the country would cease destroying the missiles if the U.S. military buildup continues.
"If it turns out at an early stage during this month that America is not going to [follow the U.N.'s] legal way, then why should we continue?" Lieutenant General Amer al-Saadi, Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser, said on Sunday night.
The U.S. has dismissed the move by Iraq to destroy its missile stocks as inconsequential. The White House has said it is part of Iraq's "game of deception."
Turkey Rejects Plans to Host U.S. Troops … For Now
In Turkey, political leaders appear to be torn between a desire to maintain close economic relations with the U.S. and a need to satisfy the will of the overwhelming majority of its citizens.
On Saturday, the country's legislature voted 264 to 251 in favor of a resolution that would have allowed U.S. troops to launch attacks from Turkish soil. But because 19 members of parliament abstained from voting, the measure was not passed. Under Turkish law, a majority of those present need to approve any legislation.
As of Monday, two dozen U.S. ships containing thousands of tons of military equipment were still at anchor off the coast of Turkey. Commanders were awaiting permission to take their tanks and personnel ashore.
The U.S. military's current plan for an invasion of Iraq involves a two-pronged attack with U.S. and British troops moving north from Kuwait toward Baghdad and U.S. troops heading south from Turkey. Officials say an alternative plan could be implemented if Turkey continues to reject U.S. troops, but they have not indicated what it would be.
On Monday, Turkey's foreign minister said the government intended to ask the parliament to reconsider the measure later this week after a review of the first vote is finished.
"The process will be completed, and then it will come," said Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis said, referring to a vote on a new resolution.
Turkey has long been considered one of the most moderate states in the Muslim world. The U.S. has enjoyed friendly relations with the country dating back 50 years. But according to public opinion polls, the vast majority of Turks oppose a U.S.-led war on Iraq.