A major Al Qaeda technical hub used to distribute video and communications from the terror group's leadership was raided by Pakistani law enforcement on Tuesday, leading to the arrest of four women and two men, according to unconfirmed Pakistani media reports.
The hub, located in Lahore, Pakistan, is believed to have been used by the same group connected to the threats against U.S. diplomats. Lahore is the same city where the U.S. consulate was shut down several weeks ago after "specific threats" were intercepted by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Pakistani police patrol outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore, Pakistan on August 12, 2013. (Getty Images)
Steve Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a nonprofit group studying geopolitical and terrorist threats through the media, said video of the technical hub shown on the Pakistani news reports (see video below) shows Al Qaeda was operating with high-tech equipment that may offer insight into possible plans and information being stored by the terrorist group.
"The content of what was found in the computers could be significant and valuable to our intelligence agencies," Stalinsky told TheBlaze. "It will be interesting to see if they share that with the U.S. Although, I believe it's highly unlikely."
The Pakistani news reports were translated by Middle East Media Research Institute. The news reports, which were obtained by The Blaze, quoted unidentified sources as saying that the "suspects had been engaged in mobile phone tracing of their victims and were planning to kidnap the son of a key political figure."
"The group was also engaged in maligning the Pakistan Telecommunication Limited Company (PTCL) and other private mobile phone operators in the country by using their SIM cards," the MEMRI translation of the media report said.
Pakistani news sources said that the captured suspects belong to the Hasan Gul and Daud Shah Group of militants, which were described as "subgroups of Al Qaeda."
News reports indicated that Pakistani security carried out at least three raids at different places in Lahore on Tuesday. During the raid, two militants were arrested but three escaped. Pakistan's GEO television channel said that four female terrorists were also arrested by the intelligence officials during the raid in the Green Town area of Lahore.
"Al Qaeda was operating an illegal gateway change under the name 'International Technical Hub'" from a private residence, the news report said. The report noted that Al Qaeda was also using the media center to receive signals and communication from Afghanistan and the tribal areas were most of the operations against U.S. forces are planned by militants.
U.S. officials who spoke with TheBlaze say they are continuing to look into the matter and it is still fluid. They did not say if Pakistan was sharing information with them.
"We are still looking at these reports," a U.S. official said. "We neither can confirm nor deny at this time."
A Dunya News television host in Pakistan indicated that the Hasan Gul group of militants is also involved in the kidnapping of the American Jewish aid worker, Warren Weinstein, a former Peace Corps worker and US Aid official, who was working in Lahore when he was abducted in 2011.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's leader, has claimed his group is holding Weinstein. Zawahiri said that he would use his hostage as a bargaining chip to free "captive soldiers of Al Qaeda."
"Obama has the power, capacity and authority to free [Weinstein]," Zawahiri said in a 2011 video. "He could also leave him in captivity for years, and if he does something stupid, kill him."
In March 2012, Zawahiri demanded the release of Pakistani doctor Aafia Siddiqui, "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman and members of Osama bin Laden's family in return for Weinstein.
Later in May, Al Qaeda released a video of Weinstein, whose home is in Maryland, where he begged Obama to give in to the demands of the terrorist organization to save his life.
Pakistani intelligence agencies also believe the technical hub was used to trace and abduct Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain liberal Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
Sources: Dunyanewstv.com (Pakistan), August 20, 2013; Geo.tv (Pakistan), August 20, 2013
On Tuesday GeoTelevision of Pakistan entered the Al Qaeda media hub after the arrests. The following is a portion of a video showing the Al Qaeda technical hub in Lahore, Pakistan. The video was obtained by Memri and is based on a poor quality recording of the broadcast.