Pakistan arrests five Qaeda, militant suspects
Pakistan has arrested five more suspected members of al Qaeda and local Islamic militant networks, intelligence officials said Tuesday, part of a sweep that led to information of a possible attack in the United States.
The crackdown on militants in Pakistan has apparently heated up after the capture of a computer engineer who acted as an e-mail postman for the networks, distributing coded messages. The New York Times said he was arrested in mid-July.
In Pakistan, officials said they had made at least five more arrests in the past three days, and two of those detained were foreigners. One of them was apprehended at a bus stop in the Hafizabad town in Punjab province, but officials were unsure of his nationality.
"He first said he was from Yemen but later changed his statement to say he was Egyptian," one of the officials, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. "We are still checking his nationality. He does not have a passport."
In another swoop, authorities arrested a foreign al Qaeda suspect along with two Pakistanis who were traveling to the eastern city of Lahore, also in Punjab, from the nearby town of Sheikupura Monday night.
No other details were immediately available about the arrests.
Pakistan also arrested a policeman in Lahore at the weekend for suspected links with militant groups, interior ministry spokesman Abdul Rauf Chaudhry told Reuters.
Another intelligence official said a police constable, who usually was assigned to security duty on routes traveled by important personalities, was apprehended on suspicion that he was passing out crucial travel information to militant groups.
The official said interrogation of the constable may lead to the arrest of more policemen.
Pakistan's prime minister-designate Shaukat Aziz escaped unhurt last week after a suicide bomb attack while he was on the campaign trail in Punjab. At least nine people were killed in the attack, which was claimed by a group with purported links to al Qaeda.
A week ago, Pakistani security forces nabbed Tanzanian-born Ghailani, who carried a $5 million reward on his head, and 13 others following a firefight in Gujarat, a town in Punjab which is 175 km (110 miles) southeast of Islamabad.
Ghailani was wanted by the United States for his role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed 224 people.
Intelligence sources say they also seized a computer and more than a hundred disks when they caught him. The Washington Post however said the initial breakthrough in Pakistan came from the capture of Musaad Aruchi, a nephew of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammad, in Karachi on June 12.
The newspaper quoted Pakistani intelligence sources as saying that arrest gave them access to a host of documents, e-mail addresses and cell-phone text messages that gave them clues to an al Qaeda plan to strike at targets in New York and Washington.
According to Pakistani officials, Aruchi was both a nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammad and a cousin of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who carried out a 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.
Mohammad was arrested in the northern Pakistan city of Rawalpindi in March last year, while Yousef is serving a life sentence in the United States.