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Pakistan Reports Capture of al-Qaida Militants - 2004-08-05

Pakistan is reporting progress against the al-Qaida terrorist group with the capture of suspected militants. The Pakistani announcement came as the U.S. Embassy in neighboring India tightened security due to unspecified security concerns.

Pakistani officials say a total of 20 suspected al-Qaida militants have been arrested in recent weeks. They reportedly include a man believed to be a senior member of the terrorist network, Tanzanian-born Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. The suspect is wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. The United States had offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

Pakistani officials say the suspects remain in their custody, and that there are no immediate plans to hand them over to the United States. Information gleaned from the arrests is believed to have contributed to the Bush administration's decision to raise the terror alert warning in Washington, New York City and northern New Jersey.

"We have extracted a wealth of information from all those who have been arrested," said Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat. "As far as passing the information over to any countries is concerned, it is absolutely important. These terrorists, they have their networks spread out all over the world."

The arrests add to a list of some 500 suspected terrorists captured in Pakistan over the last three years. President Pervez Musharraf says his country is winning the war on terrorism, but has warned that the crackdown on al-Qaida could provoke further attacks in the country.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in New Dehli has closed three of its offices. Embassy officials describe the move as a precautionary measure to limit public access due to a "security concern." No further information has been provided.

But India's news media are reporting that terrorist suspects recently captured in Pakistan have provided information of attacks planned against U.S. diplomatic posts in India.

Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of a car bomb attack outside the Marriot Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. Twelve people were killed in the blast, believed to have been carried out by an al-Qaida-affiliated militant organization, also blamed for the 2002 bombing in Bali.