AUSTRALIA APPLAUDS CAPTURE OF AL-QAEDA CHIEF

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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Mar. 3) - Australia has joined the United States in welcoming the detention of a senior leader of al-Qaeda, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of three suspected members of the terror network who have been arrested in Pakistan.

A White House statement congratulated Pakistani and U.S. authorities on the completion of a successful joint operation.

Washington considers Mohammed a key planner of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. that killed more than 3,000 people.

He is now in the hands of U.S. authorities in Pakistan.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard has described the arrest as a big catch.

Foreign Affairs spokesman for Australia's opposition Labor Party, Kevin Rudd, agrees.

"Al-Qaeda remains an active threat for Australians in Southeast Asia and Australians more broadly in the region," he said. "Southeast Asia remains al-Qaeda's largest single operating base outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We hope that the interrogation of this individual will produce real information about where al-Qaeda might be planning to strike next."

March 3, 2003

Radio Australia: http://www.abc.net.au/ra

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