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Frontline

The Frontline features

A manhunt ends

By V. Venkatesan

EARLY on February 7, several carloads of plain-clothes American and Pakistani intelligence officials burst into a boarding house in an Islamabad suburb, pounced on one of its inmates--a scraggy 25-year-old--and dragged him into one of the waiting cars. He was then rushed through deportation procedures and bundled into a U.S. military plane for New York, where, hours later, the identity of the human cargo was revealed. He was, said Federal Bureau of Investigation officials, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the suspected mastermind of the February 26, 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, in which six persons were killed.

The arrest of Yousef, who carried a $2-million bounty on his head, ended a global manhunt. Four other suspects had been arrested within days of the blast, and later tried and convicted to 240 years; and 11 others, including Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an exiled Egyptian radical cleric, are now on trial on a wider charge of conspiring to wage a "war of urban terror" against the U.S. But Yousef had flown to Pakistan within hours of the blast, and since then, according to investigators, been plotting terrorist strikes across the globe. Allegedly among his intended targets was Pope John Paul II, during a Manila visit in January 1995. Investigators claimed to have picked up his trail in recent months, but the quarry proved elusive.

In the end, Yousef was apparently done in by another suspected terrorist. Ishtiaque Parker, 25, a South African Muslim enrolled with the Islamic University in Islamabad, allegedly tipped off the U.S. embassy. He had been hired by Yousef to launch attacks against U.S. airlines, but perhaps decided that the $2-million bounty made for easier pickings. n

(Published in Frontline, March 10, 1995.)

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