KARACHI, Pakistan - The American-born spokesman for al-Qaida has been arrested by Pakistani intelligence officers in the southern city of Karachi, two officers and a government official said yesterday as video emerged of him urging U.S. Muslims to attack their own country.
The arrest of Adam Gadahn represents a major victory in the U.S.-led battle against al-Qaida and will be taken as a sign that Pakistan, criticized in the past for being an untrustworthy ally, is cooperating more fully with Washington. It follows the recent detentions of several Afghan Taliban commanders in Karachi, including the movement's No. 2 commander.
U.S. officials did not immediately confirm Gadahn's capture.
Gadahn, 31, has appeared in more than half a dozen al-Qaida videos, taunting and threatening the West and calling for its destruction. A U.S. court charged Gadahn with treason in 2006, making him the first American to face such a charge in more than 50 years.
He was arrested in the sprawling southern metropolis of Karachi in recent days, two officers who took part in the operation said.
Intelligence officials said Gadahn was being interrogated by Pakistani officials. Pakistani agents and those from the CIA work closely on some operations in Pakistan, but it was not clear whether any Americans were involved in the operation or the questioning.
In the past, Pakistan has handed over some al-Qaida suspects arrested on its soil to the United States.
Gadahn grew up on a goat farm in Riverside County, California, and converted to Islam at a mosque in Orange County.
He moved to Pakistan in 1998, according to the FBI, and is said to have attended an al-Qaida training camp six years later, serving as a translator and consultant. He has been wanted by the FBI since 2004, and there is a $1-million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Gadahn is known by various aliases including Yahya Majadin Adams and Azzam al-Amriki. His most recent video was posted yesterday, praising the U.S. Army major charged with killing 13 people in Fort Hood, Texas, as a role model for other Muslims. The video appeared to have been made after the end of the year, but it was unclear exactly when.
"You shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that military bases are the only high-value targets in America and the West. On the contrary, there are countless other strategic places, institutions and installations which, by striking, the Muslim can do major damage," Gadahn said.
Al-Qaida has used Gadahn as its chief English-speaking spokesman. In one video, he ceremoniously tore up his American passport. In another, he admitted his grandfather was Jewish, ridiculing him for his beliefs and calling for Palestinians to continue fighting Israel.