Pakistani police acting on a tip from US intelligence agents arrested an al-Qaida suspect believed linked to the 2005 London transit bombings, two Pakistani security officials said Thursday.
Zabi ul Taifi, a Saudi national, was among seven al-Qaida suspects caught in a raid near the main northwest city of Peshawar, they told The Associated Press. They said the raid was witnessed by US intelligence officials sitting in a nearby car. They said an unmanned spy plane and three helicopters hovered over the area during the raid on a house on the outskirts of the city, which has long been a hub of militant activity. The arrests appear to be a fresh blow to al-Qaida in Pakistan, which is already under fire from stepped up US missile strikes on militant targets in Pakistani regions bordering Afghanistan. They also suggested that Islamabad and Washington are cooperating behind the scenes in targeting al-Qaida and Taliban militants holed up close to the Afghan border, despite tensions over the missile strikes, which Pakistan has routinely protested.
The Afghan border is home to scores of al-Qaida and Taliban militants and is believed to be a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden and other extremist leaders.
The officials did not specify what role Taifi is alleged to have played in the 2005 attacks in London, which killed 52 people. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
"We have reasons to believe that we got the right man who had played a role in the 2005 attacks in London," said one official, who said he received the information from security agents in Peshawar.
They said the "well planned" raid stemmed from a tip from American intelligence officials, who oversaw the raid in the Bara Qadeem area of Peshawar but did not participate in it. The U.S. Embassy spokesman declined comment, while British officials were not immediately reachable.
The other detainees were three Arabs and three Afghans, one of the officials said. Earlier, three intelligence officials and a police officer also confirmed the raid and said the seven arrested men were suspected al-Qaida members
The suspects were in Pakistani custody and being questioned Thursday, the officials said.
Britain is home to many people of Pakistani descent and has long been concerned about terrorism in the South Asian country spreading to its shores.
On a recent trip here, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said three-fourths of the most serious terror plots investigated by British authorities had links to al-Qaida in Pakistan. Three of the 2005 London suicide bombers were British-born men of Pakistani descent, at least one of whom is alleged to have trained in a camp in northwest Pakistan in 2003. Another British suspect on trial over the attacks is also alleged to have attended the camp. In November, Pakistani intelligence officials said a US missile strike killed Rashid Rauf, a British militant linked to a jetliner bomb plot, but there has been no independent confirmation of his death by the US or Britain.