An "important" al Qaeda leader has been captured in Pakistan, officials there have said. The French national is believed to have been involved in plots to attack the West.
Pakistan said on Wednesday that Naamen Meziche had been arrested in an operation near the Pakistan-Iran border. The precise time and location of the arrest were not disclosed.
According to a security official, the French national of Algerian origin was "an important leader of al Qaeda" and "among the very close associates" of senior al Qaeda leader Younis al-Mauritani.
Mauritani was captured in September last year alongside two other operatives in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan. He was believed to have been responsible for planning attacks on Australia, Europe and the United States.
Western media reports said Meziche also has links to militant groups based in Europe.
The arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Pakistan and the United States over Pakistan's commitment to combating militant groups in its territory.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that stabilization efforts in Afghanistan would remain difficult while militants continued to have safe havens in neighboring Pakistan. He said Washington was "reaching the limits" of its patience with Islamabad.
ccp/ncy (AFP, Reuters, AP)