- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

KARACHI, Pakistan Pakistani police and FBI agents, acting after a month of surveillance, stormed a house on the outskirts of Pakistan's largest city yesterday, arresting three men thought to be al Qaeda operatives in a hail of gunfire and grenades.
Police said at least two foreigners, both apparently of Middle Eastern origin and suspected of being linked to Osama bin Laden's terror network, were among those arrested. It was the third major arrest of terrorism suspects in Karachi in less than a month.
"Three suspected al Qaeda men, including two foreigners, are now in our custody," said Aslam Sanjrani, the top law enforcement official in the southern province of Sindh. He said it was not clear whether they were high-level members of al Qaeda.
The suspects' names and nationalities were not released. Reuters news agency, citing a senior police officer, said one of the men apparently was a Yemeni national and the other Egyptian.
Seven others including six members of a family that apparently lived on the home's lower level also were taken into custody, police and witnesses said.
They were freed last night, one family member said.
Intelligence officials say Karachi, the site of a series of attacks on foreigners last year, has become a haven for al Qaeda members who fled U.S. operations in neighboring Afghanistan.
"Karachi is Pakistan's biggest city. Therefore, al Qaeda men prefer to take refuge in that city," said Iftihar Ahmad, an Interior Ministry spokesman. He cautioned, however, against concluding that al Qaeda's network had reassembled in Karachi.
Authorities had received a tip about the house and had been watching it for a month. Witnesses said security agents moved in before dawn yesterday.
Federal officials said the raid was led by paramilitary rangers.
The suspects fought back with a fusillade of gunfire and grenades, police said.
Mohammed Omar, a university student who saw the raid, said police opened fire on a wall of the house's second floor.
Three cars with tinted windows waited outside as officers entered and removed the suspects, he said.
Mr. Sanjrani said at least one suspect escaped, but police believe the man was injured in the shootout. Authorities were searching for him.
Ghafoor Ahmed, deputy chief of the conservative religious party Jamaat-e-Islami, said the house belonged to Sabiha Shahid, a member of the party's executive council.
He said her husband and four of their children an adult son and daughter, a teenage boy and an adopted infant were taken away, as was her nephew and a maid.
Mrs. Shahid was not at home, said Mr. Ahmed, who denounced the raid.
Those seven persons were released last night and returned home, said Mrs. Shahid's son, Farooq Ahmed Khan, 26. Mr. Ahmed said the family lived on the ground floor and that the two foreigners were renting the house's upper level.
The house is less than a half-mile from the spot where authorities found the remains of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was abducted and slain a year ago while researching a story about Islamic militants.
Pakistan has been a leading ally in the U.S. effort to find al Qaeda fugitives. More than 400 al Qaeda suspects have been arrested in Pakistan and surrendered to U.S. authorities.

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