May 4, 2006

Pakistan arrests 2 “planners” in US consulate attack

By Aamir Ashraf

KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistani police have arrested two
Islamist militants suspected of planning a March suicide bomb
attack that killed a U.S. diplomat and three others outside the
U.S. consulate in Karachi, an official said on Thursday.

"We have got some encouraging leads from both of them. They
belong to a jihadi group and were the main planners of the
consulate attack," Salahuddin Haider, a spokesman for the
provincial Sindh government, told Reuters.

The attack took place on March 2, the eve of a visit by
U.S. President George W. Bush to Pakistan, and police at the
time said they suspected Islamist militants opposed to
President Pervez Musharraf's support for the U.S.-led war on

Haider said he could not release the name of the suspects,
but termed the arrests as "a major breakthrough."

The attack was well-planned, with the driver of a white
Toyota Corolla packed with explosives ramming the diplomat
David Foy's vehicle meters (yards) from the U.S. Consulate main

The blast also wounded 52 people.

The arrests coincided with a visit by Henry A. Crumpton,
the U.S. State Department's ambassador-at-large and coordinator
for counter-terrorism, to Islamabad for talks on the war on
terrorism, implementation and intelligence-sharing.

General John P. Abizaid, U.S. Commander in Chief Central
Command (CENTCOM), was also in town for talks with Musharraf.


A senior police official, who asked not to be named, said
investigators had found a link between the arrested militants
and an al Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant group operating in
the troubled tribal region of Waziristan.

"We are also sharing information with the FBI," he added.

Another security official, speaking on condition of
anonymity, said the arrested men belonged to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi,
a Sunni Muslim militant group that has forged links with al
Qaeda, though it is also behind many attacks on Pakistan's
minority Shi'ite Muslim community.

The link to Waziristan, a rugged region bordering
Afghanistan, is significant as Pakistan's security forces have
been fighting al Qaeda and pro-Taliban militants there for the
more than two years.

Many al Qaeda members fled to the region from Afghanistan
after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001, and were
given shelter by sympathizers among the conservative Pashtun
tribes on both sides of the border.