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August 25, 2009

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Pakistani police arrest 13 militants

PAKISTANI police arrested 13 militants and seized suicide vests and heroin for export in raids they said had foiled major attacks in the country's south and east, officers said yesterday.

Pakistan is battling al-Qaida and Taliban militants blamed for scores of terrorist attacks over the last two years.

On August 5, the campaign got a major boost when Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was believed to have been killed in a United States missile strike close to the Afghan border, the militant's strongpoint.

Six of the militants were arrested yesterday in two raids in the eastern city of Sargodha, police chief Usman Anwar said.

He said they were linked to Mehsud's Taliban and had planned to launch strikes next week on at least two places of worship, foreigners, politicians and minorities in the city. He said the raids had "prevented mayhem," giving no more details.

Among the six was Zaid Mustafa, who Anwar said recruited potential suicide bombers for training in Afghanistan and who is suspected of providing logistics, explosives and other support for terror attacks in Lahore, Karachi or Rawalpindi.

"Every time the Taliban in tribal areas wanted to carry out an attack in Pakistani cities, Zaid would certainly be on board," Anwar said.

The seven militants arrested in Karachi were members of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi movement, blamed for two failed assassination attempts against former President Pervez Musharraf and the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The arrests on Sunday prevented attacks the militants were planning in Karachi on government officials, police and offices of intelligence agencies, police officer Saud Mirza said. He would not be more specific about the targets, saying it could jeopardize an ongoing investigation.

Police seized three suicide vests, 15 kilograms of explosives, 10 assault weapons and about 2 kilograms of heroin, according to Karachi police officer Fayyaz Khan.

The raid provided rare intelligence on how drug money is transferred among extremist groups cooperating to fight the Pakistani and Afghan governments as well as foreign troops in Afghanistan, he said.

"It is often said that militants do drug business to finance their needs, but this is the first time we have arrested such a gang," Khan said.

Karachi - a teeming port city of more than 16 million - has long been a hotbed for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked groups, who are believed to have staged bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom and other criminal activities to raise funds.

In recent years, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been associated with both the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida.


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