- The Washington Times - Monday, September 27, 2004

KARACHI, Pakistan — Police stepped up patrols around foreign consulates and government offices in this volatile city yesterday, fearing a backlash after Pakistani forces killed a suspected top al Qaeda operative wanted for his purported role in the 2002 kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Amjad Hussain Farooqi, also accused in two attempts on the life of President Pervez Musharraf in December, died in a four-hour shootout Sunday at a house in the southern town of Nawabshah. Two or three other men, one of them an Islamic cleric, were arrested. Like Farooqi, all are Pakistanis.

“We eliminated one of the very major sources of terrorist attacks. He was not only involved in attacks on me but also in attacks elsewhere in the country. So a very big terrorist has been eliminated,” Gen. Musharraf told reporters in the Netherlands while en route home from addressing the U.N. General Assembly.

Yesterday, the investigation expanded to include the arrests of three other suspected Islamic militants, all brothers, in Sukkur, a town not far from Nawabshah. One was identified as Khalid Ansari, believed to have ties to the Sunni Muslim group Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Police said the men were blindfolded and led away by intelligence officials as security forces using loudspeakers warned residents to stay indoors.

A fourth man was arrested in Mirpurkhas, another town in the region, said Syed Kamal Shah, the provincial police chief. He said the man is Pakistani and authorities believe him to be an important figure.

Fayyaz Leghari, deputy chief of police in Karachi, a hotbed for Islamic militants, said the city was on “red alert.” As well as stepping up patrols around foreign consulates and key government offices, police posted more plainclothes officers at sensitive locations.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, meanwhile, issued a renewed travel warning, urging U.S. citizens in Pakistan not to venture out of major urban centers, saying embassy staff may not be able to help those who do.

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism and has arrested more than 600 al Qaeda suspects, several of them senior figures in the network. Many have been handed over to U.S. authorities.

In Washington, a U.S. official who described Farooqi as a key al Qaeda figure said the government could not confirm he had been killed but that it appeared to be the case.

Farooqi was believed to have been an associate of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed al Qaeda No. 3 captured in Pakistan last year. He had been missing since Mr. Pearl was abducted in Karachi in January 2002.

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