It was just before dawn on Sunday morning when five members of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team rushed into a hotel somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and finally came face to face with one of the world’s most wanted men: Mir Aimal Kansi.
Awakened by a knock on his hotel room door, Kansi - the suspected gunmen in a brutal 1993 shooting spree outside CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., that left two dead - opened the door and gave up without resistance. And his arrest brought to a successful conclusion a secret joint operation that ultimately involved the CIA, FBI, State Department, Afghan informants and, according to sources, the Pakistani government.
Kansi, 33, appeared briefly in court Wednesday morning. Fairfax, Va., Circuit Court Judge J. Howe Brown ordered him held without bail while awaiting trial on two counts of murder, three of maiming and five of using a firearm in the commission of a crime. Bearded and wearing green prison overalls, Kansi told Brown he could not afford a lawyer.
Brown ordered him held without bail, asked the state to determine whether Kansi should be given a public defender and scheduled a June 27 arraignment.
Prosecutor Robert F. Horan Jr. said he would ask for the death penalty.
Government officials, who once speculated that Kansi was part of a broader international terrorist conspiracy, now say they believe he acted alone in the CIA shootings.
Sources have said Kansi became mentally unstable following the death of a close family member that preceded the attack. His former roommate, meanwhile, told authorities soon after the shootings that Kansi had been angered by America’s refusal to do more to help the Muslims in Bosnia. But officials declined to speculate further about motives.
FBI and CIA officials were still reluctant Wednesday to provide a full account of Kansi’s arrest, apparently because Pakistan does not want to publicly acknowledge its cooperation with the United States for fear of reprisals from radical Muslim groups. But the officials stressed that the joint operation was an example of new cooperation between the CIA and FBI - and the degree to which they have put their traditional turf battles behind them.
In fact, the FBI agent who led the team that arrested Kansi was treated to a hero’s welcome at CIA headquarters Wednesday morning, receiving a standing ovation from CIA employees gathered in the agency’s auditorium.
The FBI and CIA have tried several times to find and capture Kansi, but he had been able to elude them in his native Pakistan, and more recently in the rugged and remote reaches of Afghanistan. Officials said Wednesday that Kansi never traveled widely once he returned to his native region after the shooting.
Apprehending Kansi remained one of the intelligence communities top priorities, and the FBI and CIA repeatedly planned covert operations designed to nab him, officials said.
A break finally came about three weeks ago, when CIA informants provided the agency new information about Kansi’s whereabouts and travel plans. After checking out the sources and deciding the intelligence was solid, the CIA alerted the FBI and began planning the operation.