WASHINGTON — Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law was recently arrested in the Middle East, was transferred to the United States and is now in a New York jail, according to two people briefed on the matter.
The son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former spokesman for al-Qaida, was taken into U.S. custody in Jordan and will appear in court in New York on Friday, one person said. He is facing numerous charges, including material support for terrorism.
Details about Abu Ghaith’s arrest were sketchy on Thursday, but officials said that he was originally detained in Turkey several weeks ago. Reports in the Turkish press said that he was deported to neighboring Jordan, where U.S. officials took him into custody.
Abu Ghaith’s capture is a rare recent case in which an al-Qaida operative was detained overseas rather than killed. The Obama administration has expanded the use of targeted killing operations in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. U.S. officials have asserted that targeted killings are approved when there is no possibility of capture.
Jordan’s spy service, the General Intelligence Directorate, is the Central Intelligence Agency’s closest partner in the Middle East.
Spokesmen for the CIA, the Justice Department, the FBI and the White House declined to comment.
Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti, was one of a group of al-Qaida operatives who were detained in Iran during the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The exact nature of their detention was the subject of debate among U.S. counterterrorism officials, with some officials describing their captivity as a kind of house arrest, and others believing that Iran might be using the group to keep open communication channels with senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.
Abu Ghaith, 47, was a Muslim preacher and teacher in Kuwait who spoke out against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1991. In 2000, he traveled to Afghanistan, where he met bin Laden. Later, he married one of bin Laden’s daughters.
He came to wide attention by making statements defending the Sept. 11 attacks in the days that followed, some of them carried on Al-Jazeera, and the Kuwaiti authorities revoked his citizenship in response.
He was frequently quoted as a spokesman for al-Qaida and bin Laden. In 2003, he declared on a website: “We have the right to kill 4 million Americans — 2 million of them children — and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons.”