- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2002

KARACHI, Pakistan Pakistan's government yesterday announced the arrest of a Pakistani suspected of masterminding the May 8 car bombing that killed 11 French engineers and three others the deadliest terrorist attack on foreigners in Pakistan this year.

A government statement said the suspect was among seven Pakistanis seized in raids throughout Karachi, and a large quantity of weapons also was seized. The government did not identify the suspect.

A senior police official said the suspect also was believed to have been involved in the June 14 car bombing at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi and two attempts to kill President Pervez Musharraf. Twelve Pakistanis were killed in the consulate attack.

Some of the arrests were made near a Karachi convention center where Gen. Musharraf visited Tuesday, the official said.

All of those arrested were believed to be members of an offshoot of the militant organization Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, an al Qaeda-linked group fighting Indian rule in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The announcement followed the arrest last week in Karachi of about a dozen al Qaeda suspects, most believed to be Yemenis. They included Ramzi Binalshibh, a self-professed key organizer of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

He and four others were handed over to U.S. custody Monday and flown out of the country. The arrests prompted Gen. Musharraf to declare that security forces "have broken the terrorist network" in Pakistan.

The May car bombing led to an exodus of foreign diplomats, businessmen and their families from Pakistan's largest city.

The French victims were engineers at France's state-owned naval construction service who were building a second Agosta submarine that Pakistan purchased from France. They were preparing to board a bus to go to work when the car bomb exploded.

Suspicion fell on Islamic extremists seeking revenge for Gen. Musharraf's decision to abandon support for the Afghan Taliban and back the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

There also was suspicion that al Qaeda fugitives may have been involved, because of the sophistication of the bomb and because Pakistani extremist groups had no history of suicide attacks.

Western and Pakistani security officials believe al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan linked up with Pakistani extremists to stage attacks against foreigners and Pakistani leaders.

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, or Movement of Holy Warriors, was among 27 groups and individuals whose assets were frozen by the United States, Pakistan and other countries after the September 11 attacks.

During the U.S. bombing campaign against the Taliban last year, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen announced that 22 of its fighters were killed in a U.S. air raid on Kabul in October.

Those arrested yesterday were said to be members of the offshoot Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-Alami. Three members of that faction are on trial in connection with the U.S. Consulate bombing. Five other members were arrested this month in what police said was an attempt to kill Gen. Musharraf at an April 27 ceremony in Karachi.

Five others from the same group were arrested last week on charges of planning terrorist attacks on American fast-food restaurants in Pakistan.

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