One of the FBI's most wanted terrorists has been placed under house arrest in Yemen, according to U.S. counterterrorism and federal law enforcement officials.
Jaber Elbaneh, an alleged al Qaeda operative with ties to the Buffalo, N.Y., Lackawanna Six terrorism case, reportedly surrendered to Yemeni security services last week. Elbaneh has been charged in the United States with providing material support to al Qaeda and is currently on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list.
But officials say it's unclear when — or even if — they will ever get to question Elbaneh.
A spokesman for the Yemen Embassy released a statement to ABC News, noting that because Elbaneh is a Yemeni citizen, the constitution of that country prohibits his extradition to face a trial abroad.
Elbaneh holds dual citizenship with the United States, but no extradition treaty exists between the two countries.
Spokesman Mohammed Albahsa concluded his statement by saying, "Elbaneh is in our custody and make no mistake. Justice will prevail."
"He faces multiple convictions for committing terrorist and criminal violent activities and he will be trialed accordingly. U.S. authorities will have access to his trial. So will the media."
According to U.S. officials, Elbaneh had been in a Yemen prison but was among 23 terrorism suspects who escaped from the facility in February 2006.
Another suspected terrorist who reportedly escaped during that prison break was Jamal Ali al Badawi; he was tried in Yemen for the the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole. That attack killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39 others. A court in Yemen sentenced Badawi to death for his involvement in the Cole attack before his escape. Badawi is still at large.
Both Badawi and Elbaneh have $5 million rewards out for information leading to their arrest or capture.
According to court documents, after traveling to al Qaeda facilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Elbaneh never returned to the United States but traveled to Yemen.
Members of the Lackawanna "cell" — named for the Buffalo suburb where they lived — were arrested in September 2002 after the FBI determined they had attended a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan in 2001 and then returned to the United States. Six of the men pleaded guilty to various terrorism charges in 2003.
Members of the Lackawanna Six had traveled to the infamous al Farooq training camp in Afghanistan, prosecutors charged, which was the training base for several of the Sept. 11 hijackers, numerous Guantanamo detainees and other members of al Qaeda.
Elbaneh, a former resident of Lackawanna, is wanted by the FBI for his involvement with the Lackawanna Six and has been charged with providing material support to al Qaeda.
He was charged in a 2002 criminal complaint in the Western District of New York, which remained sealed till May 2003 when the reward was offered for information leading to his arrest.