Sun, 05 Feb 2012 11:58:28 GMT

Syria retaliates against West; frees al-Qaeda''s Europe chief



London, Feb 5 (PTI) In a retaliatory move against the West, Syria has quietly freed al-Qaeda''s operations chief in Europe and the London 7/7 bombings mastermind after keeping him in detention for six years, a media report said today.

Abu Musab al-Suri, who had a USD 4.75 million pound US State Department bounty on his head, has been freed from a Syrian jail, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

Al-Suri alias Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, identified as al-Qaeda''s operations chief in Europe, is accused of planning the London bombings in 2005 that killed 52 people, the Madrid train bombings in 2004 which left 191 dead and an attack on the Paris Metro in 1995.

He had been held in Syria, his country of birth, for six years after being captured in Pakistan, the paper said.

But his release is now said to have come as a warning to Western allies, the United States and Britain, about the consequences of turning their backs on the embattled Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the paper said.

Syria faces mounting international pressure, including from the UK, over its government''s crackdown on anti-regime dissent. A UN Security Council resolution, which demanded a halt to the bloody crackdown in Syria, was backed by the UK and the US, among other Western and Arab powers yesterday.

Al-Suri, a mechanical engineer, was seen as a possible successor to slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden before his capture although the pair had reportedly been rivals.

His release was revealed by Syrian opposition website Sooryoon.net last week, the Telegraph said, adding concerns now linger over whether reports of al-Suri''s release could trigger fear in the Western community over al-Qaeda''s ability to continue launching terrorism attacks.

Al-Suri spent three years in London in the 1990s before moving to Afghanistan to run two of bin Laden''s training camps where he began setting up sleeper cells in Europe.

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