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Pakistan arrests French Al Qaeda leader amid turmoil with prime minister

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The officials did not give their names in keeping with the policy of the Pakistani security forces.

The officials said Meziche was a close associate of Younis al-Mauritani, whom Pakistani security forces arrested last year in a joint operation with the CIA. That arrest also took place in Baluchistan. US officials said al-Mauritani was believed to have been plotting attacks in Europe.

A senior Pakistan security official said al-Mauritani's interrogation led officials to Meziche. He was arrested while trying to flee the country, likely on his way to Somalia, said the official. If Meziche is found to have broken the law in Pakistan, he would be charged and tried inside the country, the official said. Otherwise, he would be deported to France.

Baluchistan also borders Afghanistan to the northeast and has been a hotbed of militant activity.

Al Qaeda in Pakistan

The arrest highlights the Pakistani security forces' key role in the campaign against Al Qaeda, even as the US and Pakistan are going through a rocky period. The US raid on the Pakistan city of Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden last year raised questions about whether Pakistani security officials at some level knew of the Al Qaeda leader's presence. The raid infuriated the Pakistani military because it was not told about it ahead of time and were powerless to stop it.

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