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Pakistani Cops Nab 3 al-Qaida Suspects

January 9, 2003

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Pakistani police working with the FBI raided a home on the outskirts of Karachi early Thursday, arresting three suspected al-Qaida operatives and several other people after the surrounded fugitives threw grenades and opened fire with automatic weapons, police said.

None of the security officials were injured. Police said at least two foreigners, both apparently of Middle Eastern origin, were among those arrested in the raid.

Officials said they had received a tip about the home and had had it under surveillance for a month.

``Three suspected al-Qaida men, including two foreigners, are now in our custody,″ said Aslam Sanjrani, the top law-enforcement official in the southern province of Sindh. He said it remained unclear whether they were high-level members of the terrorist network.

Six other people, including a woman and a child who apparently lived in the home, were also taken into custody, police said.

The identities of the suspects were not immediately released. The two foreign men were believed to be from the Middle East, but their exact nationalities were not clear, said Iftihar Ahmad, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Interior Ministry.

The suspects were at a detention center in Karachi and were being interrogated Thursday afternoon.

Witnesses said security agents stormed the house before dawn. Sanjrani said at least one suspect escaped, but police believe he was injured during the shootout. Authorities were searching for him.

The house where the raid was conducted is less than a half-mile from a plot where authorities last year found the remains of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and killed while working on a story about Islamic militants.

Four people have been convicted in his killing. There was no indication that Thursday’s arrests were linked to his death.

Intelligence officials say Karachi _ Pakistan’s largest city, its former capital and the site of a spate of attacks on foreigners last year _ has become a haven for al-Qaida terrorists who have fled U.S. operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

In September, U.S. and Pakistani authorities in Karachi captured Ramzi Binalshibh, suspected of helping to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Binalshibh was arrested days after the Arabic television news station al-Jazeera broadcast a taped interview he gave along with Khalid Shaik Mohammed, the man U.S. authorities have pinpointed as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. The station said the interview had been conducted in Karachi in June, and intelligence officials say they believe Mohammed is still hiding in Pakistan.

Pakistan has been a leading ally in the U.S. effort to track down al-Qaida fugitives. More than 400 suspected al-Qaida members have been arrested in Pakistan and handed over to U.S. authorities.

The biggest catch so far was the arrest in March of al-Qaida’s suspected financier, Abu Zubaydah, who was taken into custody in the central Pakistani city of Faisalabad.

Update hourly