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« Report: Russian official laments ties with U.S.; Foreign minister quoted saying United States may be ‘most difficult’ partner | Main | Hyundai chairman convicted of embezzlement; Chung sentenced to three years in prison over slush fund scandal »

February 05, 2007

Pakistan arrests 6 suspected of al-Qaida links; Sunni Muslims may have ties to group that plotted attacks on Shiite festival

LAHORE, Pakistan - Pakistani police arrested six suspected members of an al-Qaida-linked Sunni Muslim militant group who were plotting attacks on a major Shiite festival, officials said Sunday.

Updated: 5:27 p.m. ET Feb 4, 2007

Police and intelligence agents also seized some 30 assault rifles, 10 grenades and more than two pounds of explosives in Jan. 28 raids on homes in the eastern city of Lahore, senior Lahore police investigator Omar Virk told The Associated Press.

“We raided two places and seized six men of a banned organization linked to al-Qaida,” Virk said.

He added that “they had plans to attack Shiite processions” in Lahore on the eve of Ashoura, the Shiite festival celebrated Tuesday during which Shiites carry religious symbols and beat their chests to mark the climax of a 10-day mourning period for Imam Hussain, the slain grandson of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Virk would not identify the suspects or say which group they allegedly belong to.

Another police officer said they were members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni militant group banned in 2001 over allegations that it was involved in the killing of Shiites in Pakistan.

Three of the six men were in Afghanistan for more than five years during which they are believed to have trained Islamic militants at an al-Qaida-run facility during the former Taliban regime, a second police officer said.

Both officers agreed to discuss the arrests only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak formally with journalists.

The arrested men were said to be Pakistani nationals in their 20s and 30s.

Police withheld announcement of the arrests until Sunday to give them time to pursue all leads, Virk said.

“We kept the suspects under interrogation. We had clues which could have led to some more suspects,” he said without elaborating.

Posted by Publisher at February 5, 2007 02:03 PM

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