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Pakistani Forces Kill Key al-Qaida Suspect - 2004-09-26

Pakistan says security forces have killed a top al-Qaida militant who was allegedly involved in two assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf, a close U.S ally in the war on terrorism.

Officials say that one of the country's most wanted men, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, was killed in a gunfight with security forces in the southern Pakistani town of Nawabshah. The man had a price of more than $300,000 on his head and was believed to be a key link between local extremist groups and the al-Qaida terror network.

Federal Interior Minster Aftab Ahmed Sherpao tells VOA that Mr. Farooqi was wanted for plotting two attempts to kill President Pervez Musharraf last December. He says that Pakistani security forces conducted the raid on specific information that Mr. Farooqi was hiding in the area.

"He was killed in an encounter when he tried to charge [personnel of] the law enforcing agencies with grenades. He was a known terrorist and a proclaimed offender and was involved in a number of terrorist activities. He was also the mastermind of the two attempts on the life of the president of Pakistan," he said.

The minister says security forces have also detained three associates of Mr. Farooqi and interrogators are questioning them. He says the killing is a significant achievement of Pakistan's fight against al-Qaida. "He was a major [al-Qaida] player and that way it is quite a success," he said.

The 30-year old al-Qaida suspect was also indicted in the kidnapping and beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl in the city of Karachi in 2002.

Pakistani authorities say Mr. Farooqi was a close associate of Libyan Abu Faraj Farj, operational chief of al-Qaida in the region, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

Known as a key and vital ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, Pakistan has captured about 600 al-Qaida suspects and handed the majority to U.S custody.