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Pakistan foils plot to kill PM

Pakistan police arrested a group of suspected militants accused of plotting to kill the prime minister and several senior government figures, security officials said on Thursday.

world Updated: Oct 15, 2010 10:07 IST

Pakistan police arrested a group of suspected militants accused of plotting to kill the prime minister and several senior government figures, security officials said on Thursday.

The seven suspects arrested on Wednesday night after a shootout near the eastern city of Bahawalpur belong to the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is allied to Al Qaeda.

"They had plans to blow up an explosive-laden vehicle near the house of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in Multan when he was visiting there," a security official in Bahawalpur told Reuters, referring to the ancestral residence of Gilani in a nearby city in Punjab province.

He was confirming reports from a police official. Federal government and security officials were not immediately available for comment.

Islamist militants have killed hundreds of people in a wave of bomb and suicide attacks across Pakistan to destabilise the US-backed Pakistani government, despite several army offensives in their strongholds.

The police paraded the men, with their faces covered with cloth, before the media.

The police said in a statement the militants had plotted to kill the prime minister, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the minister for religious affairs, who last year survived an assassination attempt, and other senior government officials.

The men were also suspected of involvement in a number of attacks, including a suicide bombing at an office of the country's main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, in Multan last year in which seven people were killed.

"They are members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group," Bahawalpur police chief Abid Qadri told a news conference.

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) emerged as a sectarian group in the 1990s targeting minority Shi'ite Muslims but later graduated to more audacious attacks. Pakistan banned it in January 2002.

Punjabi militants are believed to have developed closer ties with al Qaeda and the Taliban, representing a growing threat for Pakistan which is already hit hard by militancy raging in the volatile northwest bordering Afghanistan.