Archive for Thursday, March 28, 2002

Police arrest 30 Islamic militants in Pakistan

March 28, 2002


— Pakistani police arrested more than 30 Islamic militants, including some alleged members of al-Qaida, in raids in two major cities, officials said Thursday.

One suspect was killed and a policeman wounded in a shootout during one of the raids Wednesday night in the city of Faisalabad, the Interior Ministry said.

Four extremists were also wounded in the shootout and were taken to a local hospital under heavy police guard, ministry officials said on condition of anonymity.

Other raids took place in Pakistan's second largest city Lahore. Both cities are in Punjab province.

Punjab provincial police refused to specify the groups to which the suspects belonged. In January, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf banned five Islamic extremist organizations as part of a crackdown on Muslim militancy in wake of the war on terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.

All five groups are believed to have chapters in Punjab province.

The arrests come as police intensify efforts to track down those behind a March 17 grenade attack on a Protestant church in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, that killed five people, including U.S. Embassy employee Barbara Green and her 17-year-old daughter Kristen Wormsley.

About 45 others were injured, most of them foreigners.

The police have detained scores of suspects for questioning and have released a composite sketch of the man they believe threw grenades into the Protestant International Church, located in the capital's heavily guarded diplomatic quarter.

A senior police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that police believe those detained in Wednesday's raids may have links with those who had carried out the church attack.

Days after the attack, the U.S. State Department ordered non-essential staff and dependents to leave, and warned other Americans in Pakistan that terrorists might again seek out so-called "soft targets," like churches.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad confirmed that many Americans had left the country after the warning, though it declined to provide any figures.

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