Police hold 7 al-Qaida members

KARACHI, Pakistan: Police arrested seven members of a banned al-Qaida-linked group and seized suicide vests, explosives and heroin during a raid in Pakistan's southern commercial center that thwarted plans for suicide attacks, officials said Monday. The raid on a Karachi hide-out of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi provided rare intelligence on how drug money is transferred among jihadist groups cooperating to fight the Pakistani and Afghan governments as well as foreign troops in Afghanistan, authorities said. Police seized three suicide vests, 33 pounds (15 kilograms) of explosives, 10 assault weapons and about 4.5 pounds (2 kilograms) of heroin in the raid Sunday night, police officer Fayyaz Khan told The Associated Press. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is blamed for two failed assassination attempts against former president Pervez Musharraf and the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Khan said the suspects arrested Sunday had plans to target offices of intelligence agencies and government officials in the city. Among those arrested was a militant known by his alias Munna, an expert in making bombs and suicide vests, Khan said, adding that Munna is a suspect in one of the failed assassination attempts on Musharraf. Karachi a teeming port city of more than 16 million and Pakistan's commercial hub has long been a hotbed for Taliban and al-Qaida-linked groups, who are believed to have staged bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom and other criminal activities to raise funds. Khan said finding drugs along with the weapons was a first for Karachi police. "It is often talked about that militants do drug business to finance their needs, but this is the first time we have arrested such a gang," Khan said, adding that the raid had yielded intelligence about where the drugs are sold and how the profits move back through Pakistan to the Afghan Taliban.