PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN // An American armed with a pistol and a 102-centimetre sword was detained in northern Pakistan and told investigators he was on a solo mission to kill Osama bin Laden, a police officer said today. The man, identified as 52-year-old Californian construction worker Gary Brooks Faulkner, said he wanted to cross over into the nearby Afghan province of Nuristan because he had "heard bin Laden was living there", according to officer Mumtaz Ahmad Khan.
He was picked up in a forest in the Chitral region late on Sunday, he said. "We initially laughed when he told us that he wanted to kill Osama bin Laden," said Mr Khan. But he said when officers seized the pistol, the sword, a dagger and night-vision equipment, "our suspicion grew." He was questioned on Tuesday by intelligence officials in Peshawar, the main northwestern city. Mr Faulkner told police he visited Pakistan seven times, and this was his third trip to Chitral, which is a mountainous region that attracts adventurous Western tourists and hikers. Unlike much of northwestern Pakistan, it is considered relatively safe for foreigners.
Chitral and Nuristan are among several rumoured hiding places for the Al qa'eda leader, who has evaded a massive US effort to capture him since 2001. The focus of that hunt has been along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Bin Laden is accused of being behind the September 11 attacks on the United States, as well other terrorist acts. Washington has offered a bounty of US$25 million (Dh91m) for information leading to his capture.
Mr Khan said Mr Faulkner was also carrying a book containing Christian verses and teachings. When asked why he thought he had a chance of tracing bin Laden, Mr Faulkner replied, "God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him," said Mr Khan. Mr Faulkner arrived in the Chitrali town of Bumburate on Thursday, June 3 and stayed in a hotel there. He was assigned a police guard, as is quite common for foreigners visiting remote parts of Pakistan. When he checked out without informing police, officers began hunting for him, said Mr Khan.
US Embassy spokesman Richard Snelsire said the mission had received notification from Pakistani officials that an American citizen had been arrested. He said embassy officials were trying to meet the man and confirm his identity. * AP