Pakistanis seize al-Qaida suspects in gun battle

Thursday, September 12, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Police commandos fought a pitched battle with al-Qaida suspects holed up in an apartment Wednesday, with combat spilling out onto adjoining rooftops. Two suspects were killed and five captured in the fighting, as Pakistan stepped up pressure on the remnants of the terrorist movement a year after it made its mark on the world.

Six officers, including two intelligence agents, were wounded when police stormed the top-floor apartment and the rooftop where the gunmen held out against hundreds of troops in the street and on the roofs of nearby apartment blocks. Two of the wounded were reported in critical condition.

Police said one of the dead militants and one of those arrested were Arabs, but their nationalities were not known. The rest were Afghans, he said.

The federal Interior Ministry in Islamabad confirmed all the gunmen were foreigners but released no further information. A neighbor said the men moved into the apartment in the upscale neighborhood about three months ago.

Computer, weapons

Police seized a laptop computer and "literature," plus an arsenal of assault rifles, submachine guns, pistols and hand grenades, said an intelligence agent on the scene. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

Police retracted an initial report that a 4-year-old girl was killed in cross fire.

Karachi, a warren-like city of 12 million, has become a refuge for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan when U.S.-led coalition forces chased them into the mountains bordering Pakistan after the collapse of the Taliban regime.

In a separate raid in Karachi on Wednesday, Pakistani security forces arrested five Islamic militants suspected of planning terrorist attacks on American fast-food restaurants in the city. All five men were members of a splinter group of Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen, or Movement of Holy Warriors, who had received weapons training in Afghanistan, police said.

Also Wednesday, U.S. forces said they captured a man who is believed to be a top financier for al-Qaida network or the Taliban. The troops in southeastern Afghanistan detained at least eight other people and seized more than 150 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 200 explosive booby traps. The men detained were not identified by name.

And in Yemen, U.S. Ambassador Edmund J. Hull said that two suspected Muslim militants arrested by Yemeni authorities last month in connection with an explosion were members of the al-Qaida network and had been planning a terror attack.

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