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8 With Suspected al-Qaida Links Arrested

The Associated Press | October 13, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Eight Pakistani militants suspected of links to al-Qaida have been arrested in connection with attempted rocket attacks in and near the capital of Islamabad, the interior minister said Friday.

Intelligence agents and police had also recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives in the raids, staged at undisclosed locations in Pakistan, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said. He did not identify the suspects.

Rockets attached to mobile phones were found this month at a park near the army residence of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Parliament and the headquarters of Inter-Services Intelligence. Only one rocket went off, and no one was hurt.

Asked if the attacks were directed at Musharraf _ a key U.S. ally in the war on terror who has escaped al-Qaida bomb plots before _ Sherpao said they were not "target specific."

"The purpose was to create chaos, unrest and insecurity among the people," Sherpao told a news conference.

He said in the Oct. 4 attack in a park near Musharraf's residence in Rawalpindi, four anti-tank shells had been planted, but only one went off and landed inside the park itself.

Earlier, officials had given a different account, saying a homemade bomb had exploded.

Authorities managed to defuse four rockets primed to fire in the other incidents in Islamabad on Oct. 5 and Oct. 7.

Sherpao said the mobile phones that were meant to trigger the rockets had provided investigators with clues that led to the arrests.

He said that interrogations of suspects indicated that they were linked to al-Qaida, but would not elaborate on why investigators came to that conclusion. Investigations were continuing and more arrests were expected, he said.

In the raids carried out at "different parts of the country," authorities had confiscated 11 rockets, two Russian-made fragmentation grenades, 49 rocket-launched grenades, eight detonators and a quantity of plastic explosive, Sherpao said.


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