WASHINGTON -- Osama bin Laden's spokesman and son-in-law has been captured by the United States, officials said yesterday, in what a senior congressman called a "very significant victory" in the fight against al-Qaida.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith was expected to be in federal court in New York today in an initial hearing to face terror charges, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The case marks a legal victory for the Obama administration, which has long sought to charge senior al-Qaida suspects in American federal courts instead of military tribunals at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, credited the CIA and the FBI with catching the al-Qaida propagandist in Jordan within the last week. He said the capture was confirmed to him by U.S. law enforcement officials.
A Jordanian security official confirmed that Abu Ghaith was handed over last week to U.S. law enforcement officials under both nations' extradition treaty.
"Definitely, one by one, we are getting the top echelons of al-Qaida," King said. "I give the [Obama] administration credit for this: It's steady and it's unrelenting, and it's very successful."
Abu Ghaith became an international name in late 2001 when he appeared on pan-Arab satellite television urging Muslims everywhere to fight the United States and warning of more attacks similar to those of Sept. 11, 2001. In one video he was sitting with bin Laden in front of a rock face in Afghanistan. A teacher and mosque preacher in Kuwait, he was stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship after 9/11.
He is identified as a major al-Qaida core official by the New America Foundation think tank in Washington. King said Abu Ghaith was involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Tom Lynch, a research fellow at the National Defense University in Washington, described Abu Ghaith as one of a small handful of senior al-Qaida leaders "capable of getting the old band back together and postured for a round of real serious international terror."