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Friday, February 16, 2007

Pakistani police crack suicide bomb gang

KARACHI, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Pakistani police arrested three al Qaeda-linked would-be suicide bombers following a shootout in the southern city of Karachi on Friday, a senior police official said.

"We have recovered a jacket used in suicide bomb attacks, hand grenades and pistols from them," Fayyaz Khan, a senior official in the Crime Investigation Department (CID), told Reuters. He said the jacket was fitted with explosives.

"Now we are carrying out raids to arrest 10 more members of this group," he said.

Khan said the three militants who had been trained in Wana in South Waziristan, a restive tribal region on the border with Afghanistan, and a hotbed of support for the Taliban.

"They have admitted getting training in Wana, and we have also recovered a list of potential targets from them," Khan said, adding that the trainers were fellow Pakistanis, Uzbeks and East Africans.

Police also recovered a video disc in which an Arabic speaking man explains how to prepare a suicide bomber and how to inflict the maximum number of casualties.

A Reuters correspondent was shown the video. Only the trainer's hands were visible, and mannequins were used to demonstrate the attack.

Khan said the captured men belonged to a faction known as the Qari Zafar group, which had links with Al Qaeda and the Taliban had been involved in previous suicide attacks in Pakistan.

"They had plans to carry out attacks in Karachi and Jehlum (in Punjab province)," Khan said.

The police official also said the Qari Zafar group had been behind the a bomb attack on the U.S consulate that killed 12 people in June, 2002.

He described the Qari Zafar group as a splinter group of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant organisation that has targeted Pakistan's Shi'ite minority, and has forged strong ties with al Qaeda.

"One of the captured men, Abdul Ghani Subhan belongs to the Wana and he was apparently the one trained to carry out a suicide attack in Karachi," Khan said.

Islamist militants, angered by President Pervez Musharraf's support for the United States in a war against terrorism, have sought to destabilise the government by carrying out attacks.

There has been a series of bomb blasts, including a number of suicide attacks since the start of 2007.

A suicide attack in the capital Islamabad, and another in the northwestern city of Peshawar raised fears that unrest in the tribal regions was spilling over into Pakistan's cities as a result of the government confronting Taliban militants.
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