Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005 3:15 p.m. EST
"Al-Qaida Operative Nabbed Near Mexican Border
An al-Qaida operative who was on the FBI's terrorist watch list was recently captured near the Mexican border, housed in a Texas jail and turned over to federal agents, Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said on Friday.
"A confirmed al-Qaida terrorist, an Iraqi national, was held in the Brewster County jail," Rep. Culberson told ABC Radio host Sean Hannity. "He was captured in Mexico. This was within the last six weeks. He was turned over to the FBI."
The Texas Republican said he obtained the stunning information about the terrorist's capture "from the sheriffs who were directly involved.
"In fact, one was the sheriff who incarcerated him in the Brewster County jail [and who] confirmed this as well," he explained. The same sheriff also confirmed "that this guy is on the FBI's al-Qaida list," he added.
The al-Qaida operative "had been in Mexico, living just about 60 miles east of El Paso," Rep. Culberson said. "He was captured in a little town called El Porvenir, right across from Fort Han ."
Rep. Culberson said the detainee had been living in Mexico for up to a year, where the terrorist "was taking careful notes on the movement of people, police officers, wildlife, etc."
The Iraqi national "had apparently aggravated a neighbor in Mexico, who turned him in to Mexican authorities," he explained. Mexican officials then turned him over to the U.S. officials, who temporarily housed him in the Brewster County jail.
Asked why this news hadn't been reported earlier, Culberson told Hannity, "That's a very good question and one that I intend to get to the bottom of in my subcommittee."
Rep. Culberson sits on the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the FBI and the Department of Justice. "I guarantee that we're going to get to the bottom of this," he pledged.
He said FBI Director Robert Mueller had previously "confirmed" in testimony before his committee "that there are individuals from countries with known al-Qaida connections who are changing their Islamic surnames to Hispanic-sounding names and obtaining false Hispanic identities, learning to speak Spanish and pretending to be Hispanic immigrants."
"And these are clearly Arab terrorists," Rep. Culberson added, "from countries like Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. They're crossing the border, pretending to be Hispanic immigrants, and then disappearing."
Rep. Culberson said news of al-Qaida's penetration of the U.S.'s southern border has him worried that the next terrorist plot could involve setting off simultaneous truck bombs in major urban centers.
"The day they blow us up," he predicted, "the border will be sealed tighter than the Berlin Wall and you'll have armed United States military forces" enforcing immigration laws."