Police in Pakistan’s financial capital said Wednesday they had arrested five members of one of the country’s most feared militant groups for allegedly plotting to bomb sensitive sites in Karachi.
“We have arrested five terrorists and seized... weapons, explosives and chemicals required for bomb-making,” Karachi city police chief Waseem Ahmed told a news conference.
He said the suspects belonged to Pakistan’s banned Sunni extremist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LJ), which is accused of close links with the Taliban and is blamed for killing hundreds of Shiite Muslims since the early 1990s.
Police linked the same group to the killing of US journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped in Karachi in 2002 and two suicide car bomb attacks on French engineers and the US consulate the same year in the southern port city.
The suspects were arrested before dawn in Sohrab Goth, a down-at-heel neighbourhood on the eastern outskirts of Karachi, police said.
“These terrorists have also fought against our security forces in Pakistan’s northwest and attacked trucks carrying supplies for NATO in Afghanistan,” the Karachi police chief said.
“They had plans to launch major terror attacks in Karachi,” Ahmed said, listing key government buildings, police stations, intelligence establishments and Shiite mosques as on their hit-list.
“We have information that more terrorists are in Karachi who want to launch suicide bombings and other terror acts here. We are vigilant enough and trying to nip these terror plans in the bud,” Ahmed said.
US President Barack Obama has put Pakistan at the centre of a new strategy to defeat Al-Qaeda and its extremist allies, but Pakistani authorities reject criticism they are not doing enough to clamp down on militants.
Much of the violence in Pakistan has been concentrated in the northwest, where Taliban hardliners and Al-Qaeda extremists fled after the 2001 US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan.
Karachi has been rocked by a number of deadly attacks blamed on Islamist militant and political groups since Pakistan joined the US-led “war on terror”.
The sprawling city of 12 million is driven with ethnic tensions between Pashtuns from the northwest and other groups.