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Pakistan Arrests 7 al-Qaida Suspects - 2004-01-18

Pakistan says it has arrested seven foreign nationals suspected of links with the al-Qaida terror network.

Pakistani security authorities took five men and two women into custody in a raid in the port city of Karachi. Few official details about the arrests are available.

Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says the detainees are "foreigners" and are suspected of having links with unnamed international militant groups.

He says authorities are interrogating the suspects at an undisclosed location, but he would not identify their nationalities.

"Officially just we have to say that seven people have been arrested early [this] morning,' said Mr. Ahmed. "Two are women and five are men from some international terrorist group. None of them is Pakistani and we are investigating."

The Pakistani minister says weapons, including hand grenades and pistols, were also found at the scene.

Local reports say Egyptian and Afghan nationals are among the seven detainees.

Pakistan has recently intensified operations in regions near the Afghan border to hunt down al-Qaida militants and members of Afghanistan's former Taleban government. The rugged mountainous terrain is believed to be a potential hiding place for these fugitives.

Pakistan has arrested more than 500 alleged al-Qaida members during the past two years, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The senior al-Qaida leader is believed to have planned the deadly terror attacks on U.S. cities in September 2001.

Addressing the Pakistani parliament on Saturday, President Pervez Musharraf, a close U.S. ally, vowed to enhance efforts to hunt down al-Qaida and Taleban militants hiding in the country.