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Pakistan Arrests Key al-Qaida Suspect, 9 Others - 2004-06-13


Authorities in Pakistan say that they have arrested 10 suspected foreign militants of the al-Qaida terror network, including a key member of the group with a $1 million bounty on his head.

Officials say the group is involved in most of the recent terrorist and bomb attacks in the city of Karachi, including Thursday's assassination attempt against a top military general.

A key al-Qaida suspect, Masoob Aroochi, who has a $1 million bounty on his head, is said to be among the detainees. Pakistani officials describe him as a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged planner of the September 11th attacks on the United States, who is now in U.S. custody. Mr. Sheikh was also arrested in Pakistan more than a year ago.

Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said the arrests have made "a big dent in the al-Qaida network" in Pakistan. "These terrorists, they have confessed to their crime and a large number of equipment in the form of grenades, detonators have also been recovered [from them]," he said.

The minister says most of the al-Qaida suspects are of Central Asian origin. He said the men have told Pakistani investigators they received training at a camp in the remote tribal region of South Waziristan near the Afghan border, where Pakistani troops backed by warplanes have been engaged since Wednesday in attacking suspected al-Qaida hideouts including a terrorist training facility.

Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told reporters on Sunday evening the four-day military operation has almost ended. "This operation had been totally successful. The hideout of miscreants has been totally smashed and destroyed. In fact it was such a successful operation where there had been minimum casualties on to the security forces," he said.

The four-day offensive has killed more than 50 suspected al-Qaida militants, mostly foreigners, and some 18 government soldiers.

In a similar operation in March in this border region, more than 100 people were killed, including 48 security forces.

U.S. and Afghan military officials believe that some of the anti-government activities in Afghanistan originate from the Pakistani tribal region of south Waziristan. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition told reporters Saturday in Kabul that U.S. troops have killed about 80 suspected militants in the border region of Afghanistan in the past 3 weeks.

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