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Pak army HQ siege, Lankan team attack linked?

Military officials said they had arrested a militant named Aqeel, also known as Doctor Usman, the apparent leader of a nine-member team which tried to storm the military headquarters and then took 42 people hostage.

world Updated: Oct 11, 2009 20:34 IST

Pakistani security forces are investigating possible links between the sole surviving militant from the army headquarters siege and an attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, officials said on Sunday.

Military officials said they had arrested a militant named Aqeel, also known as Doctor Usman, the apparent leader of a nine-member team which tried to storm the military headquarters on Saturday and then took 42 people hostage.

Troops stormed the besieged building early Sunday, freeing 39 of the captives. Three hostages, eight soldiers and eight militants were killed over the course of the nearly 24-hour siege in the garrison town Rawalpindi.

Military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that Aqeel initially managed to flee and detonated a cache of explosives, injuring five security personnel, but was eventually injured and arrested.

"He was leader of the group," Abbas said.

He told AFP that the militant appeared to have the same name and alias as one of the militants wanted in connection with the March gun and grenade attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore.

That commando-style strike left six policemen and two civilians dead and injured seven Sri Lankan squad members, and bore similarities to the weekend raid on the military command centre in the city adjoining Islamabad.

"The name appears to be the same," Abbas said, but would not comment further until intelligence officials had provided more information on the suspect.

A security official who requested anonymity said that Aqeel was also wanted in connection with a rocket attack on former president Pervez Musharraf in 2007 and the killing of the military's surgeon general in February 2008.

"He is a known terrorist. His name is mentioned in several cases... including the attack on the Sri Lankan team. He will be investigated and the exact details will be known later," the official told AFP.

Initial speculation was that the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, which is accused of the deadly Mumbai siege that killed 166 people in November, was also behind the Lahore attack but they have denied any links to the assault.

Police in July said they had identified seven men accused of planning the deadly attack on Sri Lankan players and that one of them had been arrested.

The Taliban-linked suspect Zubair, alias Nek Mohammad, told reporters that the attack was facilitated by a militant called Doctor Usman.