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19 Arrested in Pakistan's 'Most Wanted Terrorists' Roundup - 2002-09-19


Pakistan says security authorities have rounded up 19 "most wanted terrorists" during recent raids in the southern city of Karachi. Officials say the militants belong to an Islamic group that masterminded deadly attacks against foreigners in Karachi and plotted to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistani Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider says the detained men belong to an Islamic group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Almi, which is allegedly linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The State Department has designated the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen a terrorist organization.

The government said Wednesday that one of the suspects is wanted for plotting the suicide car bomb attack in Karachi that killed 11 French nationals and three Pakistanis.

Speaking to reporters in Islamabad, Mr. Haider said the men are being interrogated and may have taken part in other terrorist acts this year in Karachi. He says security forces also seized a large quantity of explosives and weapons from the suspects.

"It has some connection with Daniel Pearl case also and they are involved in U.S. consulate bombing for sure," he said. " Nineteen people [of the group are] with us so far. Some of them are their leaders and activists and actual killers and planners. But we are looking for more people."

Daniel Pearl, the South Asia correspondent of the Wall Street Journal was kidnapped and murdered earlier this year in Karachi. He was researching a story about Pakistani militants.

The suicide bomb attack against the American diplomatic mission in Karachi in June killed at least 12 Pakistani citizens. Three other members of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Almi are already on trial for the consulate attack. Officials say the same three also are accused of plotting to assassinate President Musharraf in April.

Pakistani officials think the group may have been formed in reaction to President Musharraf's decision to join the U.S. led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

Last week Pakistani security agents captured about a dozen foreigners, most of them Yemeni nationals, during raids in Karachi. An alleged planner of last year's attacks in the United States, Ramzi bin al Shibh, was among them. Pakistan has handed him over to U.S. custody along with four other suspected al-Qaida militants.