|Al-Mauritani is one of three al-Qaeda members Pakistan says it arrested with US help on Monday [Reuters]
A senior al-Qaeda leader believed to have been responsible for planning attacks on the US, Europe and Australia has been arrested in southwest Pakistan, according to the Pakistan army.
Younis al-Mauritani was detained on Monday in the suburbs of the southwestern city of Quetta along with two other high-ranking Al-Qaeda operatives, the military said in a statement.
"In an intelligence-driven operation by Inter-Services Intelligence in co-ordination with Frontier Corps Balochistan, a senior al-Qaeda leader, Younis al-Mauritani, mainly responsible for planning and conduct of international operations, was nabbed," the statement said.
"Al-Mauritani was tasked personally by Osama bin Laden [the slain al-Qaeda leader] to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in United States of America, Europe and Australia.
"He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive-laden speed boats in international waters."
Co-operation between the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, led to the arrests by the paramilitary, it said, without saying when al-Mauritani was detained.
The army named the two other senior operatives who had been arrested as Abdul Ghaffar al-Shami and Messara al-Shami.
Western intelligence officials from two separate countries confirmed al-Mauritani was part of al-Qaeda's high-level team in Pakistan, and linked to threats against Europe.
"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," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
However, al-Mauritani is not listed on either the FBI's "most wanted" list or the US treasury department's list of global terrorists.
"Interestingly one has to see whether this was indeed a credible threat as the military claims," Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder reported from Islamabad.
Despite recent breaks in the relationship between US and Pakistan's spy networks following the US covert killing of bin Laden in Pakistan in May, the army heralded the co-operation that led to the arrests.
"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," the military said.