Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan

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Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan (Urdu: محمد نعيم نور خان, born 1979)[1] is an alleged Al-Qaeda operative and computer expert. Arrested in Pakistan on 13 July 2004, files found on his laptop contained details of a terrorist plot to attack U.S. financial buildings and locations in the UK, including Heathrow airport.

Khan's arrest was attributed to leads arising from the arrest of Musaad Aruchi a month earlier.[2] Following his arrest, Khan agreed to cooperate with investigators, and continued to communicate with Al-Qaeda as part of a sting operation.

Following the publication of Khan's name, British authorities moved quickly to arrest 13 members of the British terrorist cell with which Khan had been communicating (the so-called Luton cell). Evidence gathering may not have yet been completed and other plotters may have escaped due to the need to make the arrests quickly.

On 14 July 2005, ABC News revealed that Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the suspected perpetrators of the 7 July London bombings, had been in contact with members of the Luton cell that was broken up.

Khan is an alumnus of NED University and Adamjee Science College in Karachi.

Human Rights Watch lists Khan as one of detainees in CIA custody,[3] though he was released on 20 August 2007, without charge.[4]

Identity leaked[edit]

On 2 August 2004, the New York Times published Khan's name, stating that "An account provided by a Pakistani intelligence official made clear that the crucial capture in recent weeks had been that of Mr. Khan."[5]

Conversely, on 8 August 2004 on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice told Wolf Blitzer that Khan's name had been revealed "on background" (an expression with no fixed meaning in journalism, but which is often understood to mean that the information may not be published, or at least that the source may not be revealed); afterwards, however, when the transcript of the background briefing revealed that Khan had not in fact been identified by name, Rice's office retracted the statement. Sean McCormack, a National Security Council spokesman, stated "She was in the middle of making a point and [Blitzer] interrupted her, and she reflexively repeated 'on background,' but she was not confirming it and went on to complete her thought." [6]

Precisely who leaked Khan's name, and why, was controversial. Critics of the Bush administration accused them of damaging national security by the deliberate "outing" of an undercover operative for political reasons, i.e. in order to bolster claims of terrorist threats in August 2004 and win support in the upcoming election. This view was supported by anonymous Pakistani sources; according to Reuters,

U.S. officials providing justification for anti-terrorism alerts revealed details about a Pakistani secret agent, and confirmed his name while he was working under cover in a sting operation, Pakistani sources said on Friday. A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested in Lahore secretly last month, had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents to help catch al Qaeda operatives when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.[7]

Writing for, however, Husain Haqqani countered this view, reporting that

in fact, U.S. officials did not leak Khan's name. The first leak of Khan's name, according to well-informed, reliable sources in the region who spoke on condition of anonymity, came from Pakistani officials in Islamabad – who perhaps were motivated by eagerness to show off their success in arresting al-Qaida figures or, more ominously, by a desire to sabotage the penetration of al-Qaida that Khan's arrest had made possible. A second Pakistani leak to Reuters, blaming the Americans as the source of the leak, served to absolve the Pakistanis of any responsibility in breaking up new al-Qaida cells – an important move domestically.[8]

Dawn reported on 14 August 2004 that the Pakistani government had "lodged a protest with the US government for leaking the name of Mr. Khan to the media as he was said to be actively cooperating with Pakistani intelligence agencies to help catch Al Qaeda operatives."[9]

Most analysts agreed that, regardless of who had leaked Khan's identity, the leak had been premature and had compromised the success of the intelligence operation. Following the publication of Khan's name, British authorities moved quickly to arrest 13 members of the British terrorist cell with which Khan had been communicating (the so-called Luton cell). By the evening of 9 August, two of the suspects had been released from custody, and the interviews of two others had been called off. An additional five suspects were reported as having escaped the British raids.

Some of those who still maintained that the Bush administration had leaked Khan's name went on to link the incident to the leak of Valerie Plame's name as denoting a pattern of compromising intelligence operatives for political gain. Aside from individuals, blogs, and online petitions, these included other sources, such as The Village Voice,[10] The Advocate Weekly Newspapers,[11] Scoop,[12] and The Democratic Policy Committee.[13]

Sajeel Shahid, a British Muslim widely described as a founder or leader of an organization of British Muslims who supported or engaged in Jihad, said he befriended Noor Khan when they were held in Lahore.[14] According to the BBC Shahid said "Nur Khan deceived all the fundamentalists in prison and informed on fundamentalist cells around the world.".

Released due to lack of evidence[edit]

On 21 August 2007 BBC News reported[15] that Khan had been released due to lack of evidence.


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2008. Retrieved 17 August 2008.
  2. ^ Suspect arrested in Pakistan may hold al-Qaeda's secrets, The Guardian, 8 August 2004
  3. ^ List of “Ghost Prisoners” Possibly in CIA Custody, Human Rights Watch, 1 December 2005
  4. ^[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ THREATS AND RESPONSES: INTELLIGENCE; Captured Qaeda Figure Led Way To Information Behind Warning, New York Times, 2 August 2004
  6. ^ Leak of Qaeda suspect name criticized, The Boston Globe, 10 August 2004
  7. ^ Reuters – Pakistan Qaeda Suspect Named During Email Sting Archived 8 April 2005 at the Wayback Machine., Reuters
  8. ^ Subcontracting the hunt for bin Laden Archived 16 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine.,, 17 August 2004
  9. ^ Al Qaeda suspect's father moves LHC, Dawn, 17 August 2004
  10. ^ village voice > news > Mondo Washington: Ridgeway: Bush Team's Spy-Outing Ways by James Ridgeway
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 April 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2006.
  12. ^ Scoop: Ernest Partridge: Pravda on the Potomac
  13. ^ "Rubber Stamp Republicans Refuse to Conduct Much-Needed Oversight". Archived from the original on 1 June 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2006.
  14. ^ "UK Islamist reportedly says Al-Qa'idah man informed on cells". BBC News. 28 December 2004. Retrieved 2012-02-18. The former leader of the fundamentalist group Al-Muhajiroun has revealed his friendship with Muhammad Nai'm Nur Khan, communications engineer of Al-Qa'idah, at a prison in the city of Lahore, capital of the Punjab Province. In an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Sajil Shahid, known as "Abu-Ibrahim," said that Nur Khan deceived all the fundamentalists in prison and informed on fundamentalist cells around the world.
  15. ^ "Pakistan's 'extraordinary prisoner'". BBC News. 21 August 2007.

External links[edit]