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Pakistan Takes More al-Qaida Suspects Into Custody - 2004-08-20

Pakistan has arrested two suspected al-Qaida members, following a shootout in the conservative western city of Peshawar.

Police and intelligence officers captured the first suspect after wounding him during an exchange of gunfire Thursday in Peshawar's upscale Hayatabad district.

The other man was arrested later in the day.

Pakistan has arrested dozens of suspected al-Qaida members during a month-long sweep.

Speaking to VOA Friday, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed would not confirm reports that one of the men was Algerian, but said both were foreigners.

He said the suspect wounded in the gunfight is still hospitalized.

"He's injured and he's not in danger," said Minister Ahmen. "He's in treatment now."

He says the arrests were the result of an intense manhunt across western Pakistan.

"There was some information, so that is why we were looking for them from the last few days," he said.

The arrests came as police released two religious party officials in custody, following the alleged torture-death of their colleague.

The two men were arrested along with Qari Noor Mohammed for alleged ties to militant groups.

Mr. Noor died in custody. Police say his death resulted from a heart attack, but Mr. Noor's fellow party officials supported reports that his corpse showed signs that he had been tortured to death.

Mr. Noor was buried Friday, amid a small protest by the powerful religious party alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, of which he was a member.