ID made on terror suspect

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – The identity of a terror suspect killed in a shootout with security agents was confimed as a senior al-Qaida operative behind militant attacks in Pakistan’s tribal regions and on U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, an official said Saturday.

Marwan Hadid al-Suri, 38, died in a gunbattle Thursday after agents acting on a tip stopped him at a roadblock at Khar, a town near the northwestern tribal region of Bajur, near the Afghan border.

“He was in charge of al-Qaida operations against Pakistani forces in North and South Waziristan. He was behind attacks against coalition and Afghan forces in eastern Afghanistan,” Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told The Associated Press in confirming the identity.

Intelligence officials said earlier that al-Suri was thought to be a close associate of Ayman al-Zawahri, the top deputy to Osama bin Laden.

Al-Suri was the second major terrorism suspect reported killed in Pakistan this month. On April 12, Pakistani forces killed Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, 45, an Egyptian put on the FBI list for alleged involvement in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Al-Suri’s identity was confirmed by studying a laptop computer, a diary and documents found in his vehicle after the shootout, which also killed one Pakistani officer and wounded two, a security official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists.

In Washington, the FBI and CIA wouldn’t comment Saturday, referring questions to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.

Al-Suri, who was said to be an explosives expert, distributed money among terrorists and their families, including a relative of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Pakistani security official said.

It was not clear when and where al-Suri operated the network. According to information found in the diary, al-Suri distributed amounts of up to $2,500 at a time, the official said.

The computer also contained information on how to use explosives, but investigators found no indication of the whereabouts of bin Laden, al-Zawahri or al-Zarqawi, the official said.

Sherpao said al-Suri had been wanted by the United States, though his name does not appear on the FBI’s list of most-wanted terrorists. U.S. Embassy officials in Islamabad could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Bajur, the region where al-Suri was killed, lies opposite Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province, a stronghold of Taliban an al-Qaida militants where some 2,500 U.S. and Afghan soldiers are pursuing a major operation to flush out militants. Pakistan’s army says it has sent troops to block its side of the border to prevent militants retreating onto its soil.

The Pakistani province also was the scene of a U.S. missile strike in January that reportedly targeted al-Zawahri. Pakistani intelligence officials have said al-Zawahri was not at the site of the attack on Damadola, but at least four al-Qaida militants were believed killed, along with 13 villagers.

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