South Asia

Armed US 'Bin Laden hunter' is held in Pakistan

Gary Brooks Faulkner at Denver airport 30.5.10
Image caption Mr Faulkner flew to Pakistan from Denver International Airport

An American man who claimed to be on a mission to hunt down Osama Bin Laden has been arrested in northern Pakistan, police say.

They said that Gary Brooks Faulkner, 52, was detained in the mountains of Chitral district north of Peshawar.

He had a pistol, dagger and a sword and was carrying night-vision equipment as well as Christian literature.

Police say Mr Faulkner was stopped near the border with Afghanistan's Nuristan province, a known Taliban stronghold.

They say he told investigators after his arrest late on Sunday that he was on a solo mission to kill Osama Bin Laden who is thought to be hiding in the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border area.

The al-Qaeda leader is the world's most-wanted man, with the US offering a reward of up to $25m (£17m) for information leading to his capture.

'God is with me'

Police say Mr Faulkner, who is from California, arrived as a tourist in Chitral on 2 June and was assigned a security escort before vanishing on Monday evening.

A search was then launched and he was found in a forest a few miles from the Afghan border.

"We have interrogated him and he has told us that he was on his way to Afghanistan to capture and kill Bin Laden," Mumtaz Ahmed, a senior police official in Chitral told the BBC.

"We arrested him in the Bamburat valley close to the border with Nuristan province of Afghanistan."

Police say that their suspicions grew when officers seized the pistol, the sword and night-vision equipment.

Mr Faulkner is now being questioned by intelligence officials in Peshawar, the main city in north-western Pakistan.

He has told police he visited Pakistan seven times, and this was his third trip to Chitral.

Police say that Mr Faulkner was also carrying a book containing Christian verses and teachings.

Asked if he felt he had a chance of tracing Bin Laden, he told police, "God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him," the Associated Press reports.

The US embassy in Pakistan confirmed that a US citizen had been arrested and said it was seeking access to him.

Correspondents say that the Chitral area is widely seen as having escaped much of the violence that has blighted the rest of north-west Pakistan.

In April a Greek man who worked in one of the few museums in the area was released by the Taliban after being held by them for eight months.

Bin Laden has evaded a huge US effort to capture him since the attacks on the US of 11 September 2001 for which his al-Qaeda network is blamed.

Chitral - because of its close proximity to Nuristan - is considered to be one of his possible hiding places.

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