Sun, May 08, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan tightens embassy security after terror arrests

AL-QAEDA Officials are questioning Abu Farraj al-Libbi, who was wanted for masterminding two attempts to kill President Pervez Musharraf in 2003


Authorities have tightened security at foreign missions across Pakistan, officials said yesterday, following the arrest of at least eight terror suspects, including a senior al-Qaeda figure wanted for two assassination bids against President Pervez Musharraf.

The government said on Friday that its interrogation of purported al-Qaeda No. 3, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, was progressing well, but Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao denied a report that authorities had foiled yet another plot by Islamic militants on Musharraf's life.

Al-Libbi was arrested on Monday in northwestern Pakistan. He is accused of masterminding two bombings in December 2003 that narrowly missed the military leader. It's hoped he can provide clues to the location of Osama bin Laden.

Sherpao said security forces had arrested "seven or eight" militants on Thursday in the eastern city of Lahore and confiscated weapons. It was the latest of a series of reports of arrests of terror suspects -- mostly unconfirmed by officials.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the arrested men included associates of a junior Pakistani air force technician who was convicted and sentenced to death last November for involvement in the 2003 bombings. The technician later escaped custody but was recently recaptured.

Asked if the arrests were linked with al-Libbi's capture, Ahmed said, "He [al-Libbi] was the mastermind of local terrorists."

Police have been on maximum alert outside foreign embassies in Islamabad and elsewhere in Pakistan since Al-Libbi's arrest, according to Interior Ministry officials.

Sherpao dismissed as untrue a report that another group of Islamic militants allegedly arrested a week or so before al-Libbi had been in the early stages of planning another attack to kill Musharraf.

"There is not truth in this," Sherpao said.

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