Sat, Aug 12, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Atlantic terror plot linked to Pakistan

IN CUSTODY Pakistan authorities arrested two British nationals in Lahore and Karachi about a week ago and US, UK and local investigators are trying to retrace their steps


Intelligence agents arrested two British nationals of Pakistani origin who provided information on the terror plot aimed at blowing up US-bound passenger jets from Britain, a senior government official said yesterday.

One suspect was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore and the second was picked up in Karachi, Pakistan's main port on the Arabian Sea, the official said on condition of anonymity because he did not have authority to speak formally on the issue.

"Our intelligence agencies made the arrests about one week ago," he said.

He did not have details on whether the suspects have links with al-Qaeda or any Pakistani militant group.

An official at the British High Commission in Islamabad could not confirm the arrests, and referred questions to Pakistan's government.

Pakistan's government said on Thursday it had played "a very important role" in uncovering the plot -- allegedly to bring down as many as 10 jetliners in a nearly simultaneous strike that US officials say was suggestive of an al-Qaeda operation.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said yesterday that Pakistan had made some arrests, but refused to give details.

Several Pakistani intelligence officials also confirmed the arrest of a third suspect in the eastern city of Faisalabad four or five days ago, but could provide no details on the suspect's identity or nationality. They said they expected more arrests would follow.

British authorities arrested 24 people on Thursday based partly on intelligence from Pakistan. The suspects were believed to be mainly British Muslims, at least some of Pakistani ancestry.

Two US officials said British, US and Pakistani investigators were trying to trace the steps of the suspects in Pakistan and were seeking to determine whether a couple of them had attended terrorist training camps there.

A Pakistani intelligence official said an Islamic militant arrested near the Afghan-Pakistan border several weeks ago provided a lead that played a role in "unearthing the plot."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Pakistan, a key ally of Britain and the US in the war on terrorism, has been long been regarded as a center of Islamic militancy.

Three of the four suicide attackers in the July 7 bombings on the London transport system last year that killed 52 people were British Muslims of Pakistani origin and had visited Pakistan before the attacks.

One of the bombers visited a pro-Taliban seminary run by the hard-line Jamaat al-Dawat group in the eastern city of Lahore before the blasts.

On Thursday, Pakistan placed the hard-line group's leader, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, under house arrest for a month in Lahore, but officials said it wasn't linked to the aircraft plot.

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