PESHAWAR, Pakistan Ã¢â‚¬â€ An American businessman armed with a pistol, dagger and a sword has been arrested in Pakistan on suspicion of wanting to hunt down and kill Osama bin Laden, police said Tuesday.
The 50-year-old from California was detained on Monday in what was apparently the first such case in Pakistan since the United States offered a bounty of 25 million dollars for the world’s most-wanted man.
The suspect was arrested in the northern mountains of Chitral, once a rumoured hiding place of bin Laden, near Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, said police officer Mumtaz Ahmad Khan.
Police identified him as Gary Brooks Faulkner. He was caught armed with a pistol, a dagger and a sword, carrying night-vision goggles, a night-vision camera and religious literature on Christianity, Khan said.
Police said the American — who suffers from kidney problems and high blood pressure — arrived as a tourist in the district of Chitral, checked into a hotel and was given the customary security escort, before he vanished.
“On Sunday night, our security guard noticed that Gary had disappeared. A search operation was launched and we found him 14 kilometres (nine miles) short of the Pakistan-Afghan border. He was trying to enter Nuristan,” said Khan.
Nuristan is a stronghold of Taliban militants.
“He said 9/11 caused colossal losses to the US, therefore he wanted to locate Osama bin Laden and his friends,” said Khan.
“We presume he came here with an intention to kill them,” added Khan, who described the suspect of sound mind.
US diplomats in Pakistan were notified that an American had been arrested.
“We are now working on getting consular access and meeting with the American citizen,” said a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad.
Saudi-born terror mastermind bin Laden is now in his 50s and rumoured to be in poor health.
Intelligence on his whereabouts is vague, but most reports suggest he is out of reach in mountains on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which Washington says is Al-Qaeda’s chief sanctuary and the most dangerous place on Earth.
The enormous rewards offered for bin Laden and other senior Al-Qaeda aides have attracted bounty hunters to the region, but Faulkner was seemingly the first alleged hunter detained in Pakistan.
Police said he was in Chitral for 10 days before he vanished, staying in the scenic Bomborat valley with its crisp mountain air and thick forest.
He has been moved to Peshawar, the main city in northwestern Pakistan, where he is being interrogated, said Mohammad Jaffer, Chitral district police chief.
Police said Faulkner had a construction business in the United States and had visited Pakistan on previous occasions.
Pakistan, a key US ally, says there is no evidence bin Laden is in the country, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she found it “hard to believe” that nobody in the government knew where Al-Qaeda leaders were hiding.
Chitral attracts Western tourists for its hiking and stunning natural beauty and is considered one of the safer areas of northwestern Pakistan.
In April, a Greek man was released after a seven-month kidnapping ordeal that saw him smuggled into Nuristan after being snatched in Chitral.