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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
NewsWorldAmerican Al Qaeda terrorist Adam Gadahn arrested, Pakistan claims

American Al Qaeda terrorist Adam Gadahn arrested, Pakistan claims

Originally Published:Sunday, March 7th 2010, 1:22 PM
Updated: Sunday, March 7th 2010, 4:26 PM

Adam Gadahn, the California-born American poster-child for Al Qaeda and one of Washington's most-wanted, was arrested in Pakistan, according to officials from that country.
FBI/Handout
Adam Gadahn, the California-born American poster-child for Al Qaeda and one of Washington's most-wanted, was arrested in Pakistan, according to officials from that country.

Pakistani officials claimed Sunday they nabbed Adam Gadahn, the treasonous Californian Al Qaeda leader who has long been on Washington's most wanted list.

But high-level U.S. officials said they could not verify the report - and there were growing indications it could be a mixup.

President Obama did not mention what would be a welcome blow against terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden when he made a statement to reporters about the Iraqi election yesterday. He ignored a shouted question about Gadahn.

"We are checking with Pakistani authorities to confirm one way or the other," said FBI spokesman William Carter.

A Pakistani official told Agence France-Presse that "we thought it could have beena big catch, but it appeared it's not Gadahn."

The confusing swirl of reports began in Karachi, where The Associated Press and several news outlets quoted Pakistani officials announcing the arrest of Bin Laden's American mouthpiece.

An English-language paper ran a photo of a man said to be Gadahn being taken away with a bag on his head. Later reports suggested the arrested man might not be Gadahn but a Taliban commander with a similar name.

Gadahn, 31, is the first American to be charged with treason since World War II. If convicted, he would face the death penalty.

Stories about Gadahn's arrest came just hours after he appeared in a new Internet video urging American Muslims to go on shooting sprees like Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's at Fort Hood, Tex., last year.

Gadahn's arrest would be the latest in a series of successes in the new partnership between Pakistan's once-balky intelligence services and the CIA.

Known in Al Qaeda videos as "Azzam the American" or Azzam al-Amereeki, Gadahn was born in Oregon to a Jewish family.

His hippie father converted to Christianity before his son was born, changing the family name from Pearlman to Gadahn, after an Old Testament warrior.

Adam Gadhan was home-schooled in Southern California on a goat farm without running water. Once an avid fan of Death Metal music, he converted to Islam at 17 and moved to Pakistan in 1998 at 20.

Intelligence officials say he joined up with Al Qaeda after 9/11 and attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

By 2004, he was a senior Al Qaeda operative and became Bin Laden's top propagandist, appearing in numerous Internet videos calling for the destruction of America. In a 2008 video he tore up his U.S. passport on camera and urged Americans to launch domestic terrorist attacks.

He is believed to report directly to Bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Gadahn was branded a traitor in 2006 by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, Calif. He would be tried in a federal court, like California native John Walker Lindh and ex-Chicago gang member Jose Padilla.

hkennedy@nydailynews.com

With James Gordon Meek in Washington

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