Nine Qaida-linked ultras held in Pak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani authorities using US-gathered intelligence arrested up to nine al-Qaida-linked militants in a series of overnight raids in the southern city of Karachi, officials said today.

The arrests follow the recent detentions in Pakistan of several Afghan-linked militant leaders, including the capture of the Taliban’s No 2 chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, indicating that Pakistan may be stepping up its cooperation with the US against extremism. Two Pakistani security officials said the raids in Karachi last night were not directly related to Baradar’s arrest.

They said eight or nine militant suspects were arrested. One was identified as Ameer Muawiya, who the officials said was in charge of foreign al-Qaida militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions near Afghanistan and was an associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Others were named as Akhunzada Popalzai and Hazmi. Their nationalities were not immediately known.

The two officials were speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

They said that US communication intercepts played an important part in tracking down the suspects, who have been shifted to the capital of Islamabad for questioning.

The group was in Karachi to buy bomb-making equipment including timers and explosives, the officials said.

Another Pakistani official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said today that two other al-Qaida suspects were arrested in the city of Karachi “some days ago.” The official said one of the suspects was Abu

Riyan al Zarqawi, also known as Abu Musa,

who was involved in dealing with Chechen and Tajik

militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal belt.