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Pakistan Detains 9 People with Suspected al-Qaida Ties - 2002-12-19

Authorities in Pakistan have detained nine people who are suspected of having links with the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Pakistani officials say the arrests took place near the eastern city of Lahore. Law enforcement agents raided the house of a doctor, Ahmad Javed Khawaja, who is thought to have treated al-Qaida and Taleban fighters in Afghanistan.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed says two American passport holders and a Canadian national are among the detainees. All were relatives of Dr. Khawaja. "It's not confirmed that they belong to al-Qaida," says Mr. Ahmed. "They are nine people. The investigation staff is working with them and we will come to know the reality within a short time."

Some reports say U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents took part in the raid. But the information minister could not confirm that. "I don't know whether they are involved in the raid or not," said Mr. Ahmed, "but some [FBI] people are in Pakistan. They are giving us the [intelligence] information."

Two of the arrested men are Dr. Khawaja's sons, two are his brothers, and three are his nephews. One arrested man is his uncle.

Pakistan has captured more than 420 suspected al-Qaida fugitives on its soil as part of the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Pakistani officials admit experts from the American FBI provided intelligence that made most of the arrests possible.