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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pakistan nabs six militants plotting attacks on elite polo festival

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan has arrested six Islamic militants suspected of planning attacks on an elite polo festival in the Hindu Kush foothills attended by Western diplomats, security officials said.

The arrests were made at Shandur in Gilgit district on Thursday, a day before the opening of the three-day festival where Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is also expected to appear.

Officials said the militants belong to the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ) group which has links to al-Qaeda and has been behind a series of attacks on the minority Shiite Muslim community.

"Among the arrested militants is LJ's deputy leader Mohammad Shakir and five others," a senior security official said on Saturday.

"They were planning sabotage attacks during the festival," the official told AFP, without giving further details.

Polo in Shandur, an area described as being on the ridge between heaven and the descent to hell, is played at an altitude of 3,700 meters (12,300 feet) in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains.

The annual event, first started by a former British army officer, attracts diplomats, foreign tourists and a large number of local fans from different parts of the country.

LJ, with suspected links to
Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror network, is among the fiercest militant groups in Pakistan.

The group has also been linked to the 2002 murder of US reporter Daniel Pearl and two failed attempts in 2003 on the life of Musharraf, who is a key ally in US
President George W. Bush's "war on terror".
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