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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 06:53 GMT 07:53 UK
Karachi bomb suspects arrested
Pakistan suspects
Two of those arrested were produced for journalists
Pakistani paramilitary forces have arrested three people in connection with two recent bomb attacks in the southern city of Karachi.

Pakistan is well on its way to clearing the country of... extremist elements

Major-General Rashid Qureshi
government spokesman
The suspects, who are said to be members of a banned Muslim extremist group, were caught after the Paramilitary Rangers carried out several raids in the port city.

The men, along with a Rangers officer, are also accused of attempting to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf in April, when they failed to set off a car bomb as the general's motorcade drove by.

The arrests followed a bomb attack on 8 May, which killed 14 people including 11 French submarine builders, and another blast near the US consulate on 14 June, which killed 12 Pakistanis.

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Islamabad says the Pakistani Government is portraying this as a major breakthrough in the country's battle against terrorism.

News of the alleged attempt on the president's life only emerged on Monday after the suspects - members of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen offshoot al-Alami - apparently confessed to police.

Targeting terror

Major-General Salahuddin Satti, who is heading the Rangers' investigation, told a news conference that the arrested men had admitted carrying out the consulate attack.

Policemen inspect car damaged in the consulate bombing
Karachi has seen several bomb attacks
"We were able to nab three main culprits. They were involved in this consulate bombing," he was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

Two of the arrested men were present at the news conference. The third was not produced for legal reasons, officials said.

Pakistani investigators have been working closely with US officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation since the attacks.

The Rangers took over security for the US consulate as well as some of the investigation after police failed to come up with significant leads on the bombings.

Atempt on Musharraf

General Satti said 14 other members of the same militant group were still at large, but there was no conclusive evidence of any links between them and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Debris of the consulate bomb attack
Authorities have not found a link with al-Qaeda

He also said that the men were implicated in other incidents, the most notable being a failed attack in April on President Musharraf.

He said they had attempted to blow up the car in which General Musharraf was travelling during a visit to Karachi, but that the bomb had failed to explode.

An inspector in the Paramilitary Rangers, Wasim Akhtar, had also been arrested for his alleged role in the plot, General Satti said.

Government spokesman Major-General Rashid Qureshi told the BBC that Pakistan was "well on its way to clearing the country of... extremist elements".

"The majority of the people in Pakistan, over 99%, are moderate forward-looking progressive people," he said.

"But there are some extremist elements who have their own strange interpretation of what's happening."

Pakistani authorities have recently published photographs of alleged militants and al-Qaeda leaders in local newspapers as part of efforts to track them down.

It is not clear if the advertisements led to the latest arrests.

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Islamabad
"These men had been implicated in other incidents"
Pakistani spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi
"Pakistan's war against terror has started producing results"
Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat




See also:

29 Jun 02 | South Asia
18 Jun 02 | South Asia
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06 Jun 02 | South Asia
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
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