50 Islamic militants arrested in crackdown in Pakistan

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Associated Press WriterISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- In a nationwide crackdown in the last few days, Pakistan has arrested about 50 followers of two militant Islamic groups that India accuses of orchestrating an attack in its Parliament last month, group officials said Wednesday.

The arrests included 38 members of Jaish-e-Mohammed and 12 followers of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, they said.

Most Jaish-e-Mohammed members were arrested in the southern port city of Karachi and the eastern city of Bahwalpur, group spokesman Abu Hasan Barki said by cellular telephone from an undisclosed location.

Pakistan's military-led government, a strong U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, is being pushed both by Washington and rival India to take action against Islamic militants.

India and Pakistan have massed tens of thousands of troops along their border since the Dec. 13 Parliament attack, which left nine Indians and the five attackers dead. India says Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed conducted the attack with complicity from Pakistan's spy agency. Pakistan and the two groups deny the charge.

Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for Jamaat ud Daawa, or the Organization of Preachers, the non-militant wing of Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, reported the arrests from that group. "It is unfortunate that those people are being arrested who have given tremendous sacrifices for the country," he said.

Amid the crisis, Pakistani authorities have escalated their efforts against militants and arrested the leaders of the two groups, accusing them of making inflammatory speeches and inciting violence.

Both Lashkar and Jaish are the key Pakistan-based guerrilla groups fighting Indian rule in two-thirds of Kashmir, where more than a dozen other Muslim groups are waging a bitter secessionist movement.

India claims Pakistan has fomented the violence. Pakistan, which also holds part of Kashmir, calls it an indigenous struggle. The two countries have fought two wars over the region.

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