Authorities in Pakistan say they have captured a group of eight militants operating a recruitment cell in the country at the behest of the Syrian-based Islamic State terrorist group.
Counterterrorism forces in an overnight operation arrested the men in Lahore, the second-largest Pakistani city and capital of the populous Punjab province, said an official announcement Thursday.
It added that authorities also seized mobile phones, laptops and IS propaganda material.
The detainees were recruiting young men to send them illegally to Syria via Afghanistan and Iran, the two immediate neighbors of Pakistan sharing long porous frontiers.
FILE _ Pakistani students shout slogans against the Islamic State group holding a banner that reads "down with Islamic State rally," in Islamabad, Nov. 20, 2014.
The counterterrorism department says the suspects have told interrogators they have already dispatched an unspecified number of fighters and were readying to send a fresh group.
Pakistani officials say that they have arrested hundreds of IS operatives from different cities within the past two years, but they insist the Middle Eastern group has no organized presence in Pakistan.
IS claimed responsibility for last week's bomb blast at a Sufi shrine in a remote district in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province. The violence left more than 50 people dead and wounded scores of others.
In late October, three IS suicide bombers raided a police training center in Quetta, the provincial capital, killing at least 60 recruits and wounding more than 100 more.
IS launched its operation in the region in early 2015 after establishing bases in remote eastern border areas of Afghanistan.
The group calls Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Iran as its so-called Islamic State of Khorasan Province and allegedly take orders from leaders in Syria.