EXCLUSIVE: New Al Qaeda Leader Planning Attack Against U.S.

ByABC News
March 1, 2006, 5:18 PM

March 2, 2006 — -- Pakistani officials told ABC News that they believe they have indications that a new terrorist attack against the United States is being planned there. They told ABC News that while their intelligence does not give any specific details as to a target or time, it does indicate that an emerging al Qaeda figure is making plans.

Pakistani military officials say Matiur Rehman, 29, a Pakistani militant, is behind the new plans for an attack against the United States. Pakistan has posted a 10-million rupee (about $166,000) award for his capture.

"He is probably Pakistan's most wanted right now," says Alexis Debat, a former adviser in the French defense ministry and now an ABC News consultant. "He is extremely dangerous because of his role as the crucial interface between the brains of al Qaeda and its muscle, which is mainly composed these days of Pakistani militants."

Pakistani officials suspect the attack outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi today is connected to Rehman, who has had a base of operations in Karachi. A suicide bomber rammed a car into a vehicle carrying an American diplomat, killing at least four people. President Bush is expected to visit Islamabad, about 1,000 miles north of Karachi, later this week.

Pakistani officials said Rehman helped train thousands of fellow Pakistani militants at al Qaeda training camps during the late 1990s.

As pressure from the United States and its allies against al Qaeda's leadership has intensified, there is increasing evidence that the terrorist network has relied on Pakistani-based militants to provide logistical support and execute operations.

"Certain Pakistani groups have definitely been acting as if they were subcontractors for al Qaeda by virtue of carrying out certain terrorist attacks on behalf of al Qaeda, or in other cases, simply sustaining the terrorist network that al Qaeda built up," said Husain Haqqani, a Boston Univeristy professor and author of the book "Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military."

Last year the London bombings were carried out by a small group of Pakistanis, all of whom were British citizens. They became terrorists after visiting Pakistan. Pakistani military officials said they now fear that those training operations have set the model for other al Qaeda attacks in the West.

"The Pakistani militant groups that provided [the London bombers] that training clearly did that with the understanding that these people would be acting not in Kashmir, not in Afghanistan but in London," said Haqqani. "And that could only mean that al Qaeda was taking the lead that these people were doing something that would, if not be at the behest of al Qaeda would definitely benefit al Qaeda's world view."