- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 30, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan Two huge bomb blasts aimed at Westerners have left Karachi residents edgy and fueled fears that al Qaeda forces may be regrouping to continue their "jihad" from hide-outs in the city.
The arrest last week of five foreigners among eight persons detained in connection with a June 14 explosion at the U.S. Consulate here gave some credence to those fears.
Pakistan's main port and commercial center, Karachi is known as a thriving, progressive city. But recently it has seen a sharp rise in anti-West attacks as well as sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.
The powerful explosion outside the fortified U.S. Consulate in downtown Karachi, believed to have been triggered by a suicide attacker in a car, killed 12 Pakistanis. On May 8, an explosion outside a hotel in an upscale neighborhood killed 11 French engineers and four Pakistanis.
Earlier this year, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was abducted and killed by suspected Islamic militants while researching a story in Karachi.
The wave of high-profile attacks shook even longtime residents of the violence-prone city. Many believe Islamic extremists driven by U.S.-led forces from their strongholds in the Afghan mountains have regrouped in Pakistan.
The arrest of five foreigners Wednesday in connection with the consulate bombing fed the idea that Taliban or al Qaeda activists have established themselves in Karachi. Three Palestinians and two Sudanese were among the eight detained.
Police also seized satellite telephones, laptop computers and several computer disks during the raids.
The police, for the first time, yesterday released photos of 11 militants suspected in the bombings and the Pearl case, and offered rewards totaling $320,000 for help in their capture.
A top police official said most of the men listed are members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Muslim extremist group banned last year. The group has traditionally targeted Pakistan's Shi'ite Muslim minority, but police now speculate that it may be working with al Qaeda-affiliated groups.
More than 3,000 Pakistani troops also have been searching for al Qaeda forces in the mountainous regions close to the Afghan border. Yesterday, the troops conducted house-to-house searches, mountain patrols and roadblock checks near the border town of Wana, about 190 miles west of Islamabad.
The troops, backed by helicopters and U.S. intelligence, have arrested at least 20 men since Wednesday, when fighters believed to be from al Qaeda clashed with Pakistani troops, killing 10 of them.
Ghazi Salahuddin, a prominent Karachi journalist, says the poorer districts on the edges of the city teeming with "madrassas," or religious schools, could provide perfect hide-outs for hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists. But he said he has seen no evidence they are already there.
Ikram Sehgal, a Pakistani security analyst, says the atmosphere of fear is precisely the effect those behind the bombings were trying to create.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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