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Pakistan makes more arrests after slaying militant
Updated: 2004-09-28 08:37

Pakistani security forces arrested more suspected Islamic militants a day after they shot dead a key suspect wanted in a failed bid on President Pervez Musharraf's life and the killing of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl.

Security forces shot dead Amjad Hussain Farooqi, described as one of the principal members of al Qaeda in Pakistan, in a gun battle on Sunday afternoon in the southern city of Nawabshah.

"We've eliminated one of the very major sources of terrorist threat," Musharraf told reporters during an official visit to the Netherlands.

"Not only was he involved in the attacks on me but also in attacks elsewhere and terrorist attacks elsewhere in the country. So a very big terrorist has been eliminated."

Security forces besieged Farooqi's hideout in Nawabshah, after a phone tap operation confirmed his presence. Two Pakistani companions were captured and are under interrogation.

Brigadier Javed Cheema, an interior ministry official, said subsequent arrests were made in several parts of the country.

Police sources said at least three men were detained in the Sindh town of Sukkar, about 400 km (240 miles) north of Karachi.

Farooqi, who had a price of 20 million rupees ($338,000) on his head, was considered the main Pakistani planner of two failed assassination bids on Musharraf, including a suicide attack on his motorcade on Dec. 25 last year that killed 15 people and wounded 45.

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao told a news conference that Farooqi was a known associate of Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who had advised him to target only the senior most figures in Pakistan like Musharraf.

Farooqi's controller was believed to be Libyan Abu Faraj Farj, who has emerged as a leading al Qaeda figure in Pakistan.

Farooqi was also one of seven men wanted in the 2002 kidnapping and slaying of Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter.

Farooqi's death prompted authorities in Karachi to issue a red alert at foreign missions, government offices and places of worship to counter any retaliatory assaults by extremists.

"He was among the top terror masterminds," said Karachi police chief Tariq Jameel. "We have put security on alert to face any possible reaction to his killing."

Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, has arrested more than 500 al Qaeda suspects, including senior members of Osama bin Laden's network and handed many of them to the United States.

Bin Laden himself is thought to be hiding in the forbidding mountainous terrain bordering Afghanistan.

Dozens have been arrested since July, including al Qaeda computer expert Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, who helped the authorities track down other al Qaeda operatives.

Fayyaz Leghari, a deputy inspector-general of police, said Farooqi had connections with foreign militants and was the main organizer and facilitator of major terror attacks in Pakistan.

Sheikh Omar, a British-born Islamic militant in jail and sentenced to hang for his role in Pearl's murder, named Farooqi as one of the conspirators, Leghari said.

Farooqi was also wanted in a suicide car bombing outside Karachi's Sheraton Hotel in May 2002 that killed 11 French technicians working on a submarine project in Pakistan, he said.

Pakistani media said Farooqi was also behind a 2002 suicide bomb attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi that killed 12 Pakistanis.

Sherpao said Farooqi planned a rocket attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi in January 2002, but it failed, and he also "assisted" in attacks on a church in Islamabad in March 2002, in which five people were killed including two American nationals.

Investigators said Farooqi was a member of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group. Police officials said he rented the house in Nawabshah a couple of months ago, but refused surrender to the besieging security forces.

Security personnel seized computers, maps, foreign and local currency from the house, said one official from Nawabshah.

Islamic hard-liners are furious over Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on terror, and have launched a series of attacks targeting Westerners, government officials and the religious minorities.

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