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Afghan raid nabs al-Qaida suspects

AUTHORITIES were questioning seven al-Qaida suspects seized in a raid near the Afghan frontier after a tip from American intelligence, Pakistani officials said.

The officials claimed on Thursday that the detainees included a Saudi national linked to the 2005 London transit bombings. However, British investigators said they were seeking no foreign suspects over the attacks.

Capturing so many al-Qaida suspects alive would represent a fresh blow to the terror network in Pakistan, already under fire from stepped-up American missile strikes on its hideouts across the Afghan frontier.

They also suggest Islamabad is working closely with Washington against Islamist militants, despite routine Pakistani protests over the missile attacks.

Two Pakistani security officials told The Associated Press that a Saudi called Zabi ul Taifi was among the seven caught when Pakistani forces mounted a raid on Wednesday near the northwestern city of Peshawar.

They said the swoop was in response to a tip-off from American intelligence, whose agents watched the capture in the village of Bara Qadeem from a nearby car.

A United States counterterrorism official told the The Associated Press that "Taifi was among the top two dozen al-Qaida leaders."

"The fact that Taifi, a senior al-Qaida operations planner, is off the streets is significant," said the official. "He was deeply involved in internal and external operations plotting."

Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik identified those detained as a foreigner and six Pakistanis. He said they included "high value targets" but did not elaborate.

Much of Pakistan's border region has fallen under the control of Taliban and al-Qaida militants and is believed to be a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden.

The Pakistani security officials did not specify what role Taifi allegedly played in the London suicide bombings, which killed 52 people.

"We have reasons to believe that we got the right man who had played a role in the 2005 attacks in London," said one official.

In London, police and intelligence officials said Taifi was not among suspects known to be linked to the 2005 bombings, but said checks into his background were under way.


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