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Pakistani Official Says Hunt for Terrorists Will Continue - 2004-08-12


Pakistan's interior minister says his country's aggressive pursuit of suspected al-Qaida operatives will continue, but warns that some news reports about the sweep are incorrect. The minister is also urging U.S. officials to keep information from the investigation secret.

In an interview with VOA Thursday, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat says authorities are closing in on the al-Qaida network in Pakistan, and more arrests are likely soon.

"The net is closing around the al-Qaida structure within Pakistan. So, certainly, there is considerable room for optimism in this context," he said.

In recent weeks, Pakistan has detained an estimated 20 al-Qaida suspects, including fugitive Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and alleged al-Qaida computer expert Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan.

Mr. Hayat says another five suspects were arrested Thursday, but adds that it is far too soon to know if they are connected with al-Qaida.

He says many recent news media reports about the details of those arrested or their attack targets are inaccurate or speculative. He says news reports that are relevant jeopardize future operations against al-Qaida.

He also urged caution on the part of U.S. investigators to keep operational information secret.

"Pakistani investigators are exercising extreme caution," he said. "I would also very strongly suggest and advise the American officials to also adopt a similar approach."

Some recent media reports have claimed Bush administration officials or investigators have leaked information about the Pakistani arrests in order to justify increased U.S. national alert levels.

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