Al-Qaeda chief Younis al-Mauritani held, says Pakistan

image captionReports say that Younis al-Mauritani took commands from Osama Bin Laden

Pakistan's army says it has arrested a man it describes as a senior al-Qaeda leader and two of his accomplices.

Younis al-Mauritani planned and executed international operations for the global terror network, the military said in a statement.

The White House praised the capture - reportedly the result of co-operation between US and Pakistani intelligence.

The army said the men were seized in the suburbs of the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta.

It did not say when the arrests were made.

"Mauritani was tasked personally by Osama Bin Laden to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in United States of America, Europe and Australia," said the Pakistani statement.

The two other men arrested were named as Abdul Ghaffar al-Shami and Messara al-Shami.

"This operation was planned and conducted with technical assistance of United State Intelligence agencies with whom Inter-Services Intelligence has a strong, historic intelligence relationship," said the statement.

Mr Mauritani does not feature on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists. But an unnamed Western intelligence official told the AFP news agency: "If it's confirmed, it's a good catch."

Nevertheless, analysts say there may be some issues around verifying his identity and his position within al-Qaeda and some say that he is not well-known within Pakistan as a militant figure.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest later told journalists in Washington: "We applaud the actions of Pakistan's intelligence and security services that led to the capture of a senior al-Qaeda operative who was involved in planning attacks against the interests of the United States and many other countries."

The report comes one week after US officials claimed to have killed senior al-Qaeda operative Atiyah Abd al-Rahman in a drone strike near the Afghan border in Pakistan. But Pakistani officials have said there is no confirmation of his death.

Relations between Pakistan and the US have been on a downward spiral ever since the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in early May.

The increasing US drone attacks on militants inside Pakistan along the Afghan border is also a continuing source of antagonism.

In early July the US announced plans to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military aid to Pakistan.

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