Pakistan has detained more than 200 suspected Islamic militants in a nationwide crackdown against extremist groups. The arrests were made after Pakistani authorities confirmed that three of the suicide bombers of the London attacks visited Pakistan late last year.
|A Pakistani police officer escorts a man arrested for allegedly having links with a banned Islamic militant group|
Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao says most of the suspects were detained in the Punjab province. He says the raids against religious seminaries and offices of banned Islamic groups are being carried out to eliminate, what he called, a network of "nurseries" where militants, including those from outside the country, get training to promote religious extremism.
The minister says the raids will continue, but he denies they are linked to the July 7 attacks in London. He says the action against these militant forces is Pakistan's internal policy and is not connected to bombings in Britain.
But security officials are reported as saying a small number of detainees are being questioned for suspected links to the London attacks, but they have not given more details.
Officials have denied media reports that a senior al-Qaida militant directly linked to the London attacks is among the detainees.
Pakistan has been in the spotlight since it was established that three suicide bombers involved in the London attacks were Britons of Pakistani origin who had visited Pakistan last November.
The security forces moved against religious schools after President Pervez Musharraf late last week ordered them to uproot forces and institutions involved in promoting extremism.
The president issued the orders while addressing a meeting of top civil and military intelligence officials. He said the security forces must ensure that by the end of the year there is no material on sale in the market that incites religious hatred. "These should not be visible in the market by December this year. Weapons must not be visible. Stop it [and] put the men behind the bars," he said.
President Musharraf is expected to make a televised address to the nation Thursday to outline new steps to stop extremist leaders preaching at Islamic schools.