/ 24 August 2009

Pakistan arrests seven ‘plotting Karachi attacks’

Pakistani police have arrested seven men belonging to an al-Qaeda-linked militant group who were planning to attack high-profile targets in the country’s biggest city, Karachi.

The militants, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) group, were arrested in a raid in the upmarket Defence neighbourhood, where they had rented a bungalow, Superintendent of Police Fayyaz Khan told Reuters late on Sunday.

”All of these militants belong to the LeJ and they were planning to attack important government buildings and senior government officials,” Khan said.

”We have recovered three suicide jackets, four AK-47 rifles, four pistols and 15kg of explosives,” he said.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed United States ally, has seen an intensification of attacks by Islamist militants over the past two years. It has responded since April with army offensives against militant strongholds in the northwest.

Karachi is Pakistan’s commercial hub and home to its main stock exchange and central bank. Many foreign companies involved in Pakistan also have offices there.

Khan said one of the detained men, Muhammad Shahzad, had also been involved in planning an attack on former president Pervez Musharraf and another attack on former prime minister Shaukat Aziz. The Sunni Muslim LeJ is one of Pakistan’s most notorious al-Qaeda-linked groups that began by targeting minority Shi’ite Muslims.

It later graduated to more audacious attacks, such as the truck bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel in September last year in which 55 people were killed, the government says.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik told CNN on Sunday that security forces had in the past month foiled a militant attack on Parliament in Islamabad. — Reuters