- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan Police commandos fought a pitched battle with al Qaeda suspects holed up in an apartment yesterday 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 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.

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.

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

Karachi, a warrenlike city of 12 million, has become a refuge for al Qaeda 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 yesterday, 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-Mujahideen, or Movement of Holy Warriors, who had received weapons training in Afghanistan, police said.

Last week, a reporter for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network said he interviewed two of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants in Karachi Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh both of whom said they helped plan the September 11 attacks in the United States.

The fighting in Karachi began yesterday morning when agents of Pakistan's intelligence agency and police raided the apartment after receiving a tip that suspicious people were living there.

An intelligence official said one of the gunmen inside the apartment scrawled "There is no God but Allah" in Arabic in blood on the tiles of the kitchen wall.

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