Among the "illegal settlers," Hussain was told, was a Middle Easterner of particular interest to the U.S. In the police chief's office, with its vaulted ceilings, the Americans passed around a sheaf of photocopies, each bearing a photograph of a thirtyish Arab with wire-rimmed glasses and furtive, intense eyes. Next to the photo were drawings of how the suspect might look with long hair, with a goatee or clean shaven.
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The hunted man was Abu Zubaydah, 31, the Saudi-born Palestinian who helped assemble the inner mechanisms of Osama bin Laden's worldwide terror network. If anyone knows where bin Laden is hiding--or where al-Qaeda sleeper cells are lying dormant inside the U.S.--it is this trusted lieutenant. As al-Qaeda's chief of operations and top recruiter, Zubaydah could provide the names of terrorists around the world and which targets they planned to hit.
But first he had to be caught. Hussain's orders were "to capture the suspects alive at all costs," which wouldn't be easy. U.S. intelligence showed that more than a dozen terrorist suspects were staying in perhaps nine Faisalabad safe houses. They were fanatical, probably armed with guns and grenades.
U.S. and Pakistani intelligence were not sure which of the houses might be harboring Zubaydah. During their month-long stay in Faisalabad, the al-Qaeda agents seldom, if ever, left their houses, even to pray at nearby mosques. But telephone and computer wiretaps had given the agents a strong hunch that Zubaydah was hiding in Shabaz Cottage, a monolithic gray villa in the suburb of Faisal Town. With high stone walls topped by vines of barbed and electric wires, the three-story place was bounded on two sides by grassy fields, which afforded a good view of anyone approaching.
Should the raiding party burst into the compound and risk a shoot-out, or surround the place and wait for the suspects to surrender? Hussain couldn't decide. In the end, his men did both. At 3 a.m., more than 100 police crept up to Shabaz Cottage. In case the suspects escaped, Hussain also mounted 40 police checkpoints on all the main roads in Faisalabad; each had Zubaydah's photo.
Clipping the electric wires above the gate, the assault team spidered over, then subdued three guards asleep in the garage. "We gave warning to surrender," Hussain says. There was no response, so the cops broke down the door and rushed in. Zubaydah and three other Arabs grabbed money and fake Saudi passports and raced up the central staircase to the roof, with the police in hot pursuit. The al-Qaeda men were cornered.
Then Zubaydah and his companions pulled off a move that would have impressed any Hollywood stuntman. With a running start, they leaped off the cottage roof, sailed over the barbed-wire fencing and tumbled onto the neighboring villa's roof--a drop of 25 feet. They were immediately grabbed by four Pakistani cops waiting for them. Zubaydah was furious that fellow believers would act against him. "You're not Muslims!" he is said to have told the police disdainfully in English. "Of course we are," an officer replied. "Well, you're American Muslims," he sneered.
The taunting stopped when one of Zubaydah's comrades lunged at a cop and wrested away his AK-47. "There was a struggle for the gun, and Zubaydah was hit in the cross fire," Hussain says. He was shot in the stomach, the leg and possibly the groin. His gun-grabbing comrade, a Syrian named Abu al-Hasnat, was killed, and the third, unidentified suspect was also wounded, along with three officers. Once the al-Qaeda men were all handcuffed, the Americans moved in, comparing their catch--25 foreigners in all that night--to photos kept in a casebook of known al-Qaeda members. When one of the wounded matched up with Zubaydah's photo, "the FBI agents were very happy," says Hussain. "They applauded when they found out."
A trove of computer discs, notebooks and phone numbers discovered in the safe house should help investigators trace Zubaydah's web. A senior U.S. intelligence official says the take amounts to 10,000 pages of material. Most of this cache was flown back to the U.S. for analysis. "We know for certain that Abu Zubaydah was planning future terrorist attacks," this official said. Investigators are also intrigued by a roster taped up on a kitchen wall, which has "Osama" and "Abu Zubaydah" down for unspecified duties. Whether these chores were domestic or subversive in nature is not yet known. And investigators say there is no evidence that bin Laden was in the house. There were no weapons found. Says an Islamabad military officer: "These were men on the run."