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Pak foils attack on US officials

Karachi, Dec. 15 (Reuters): Pakistani authorities arrested three Islamic guerrillas and seized a car packed with explosives which police said today was to be used in a suicide attack targeting US diplomats in Karachi.

Syed Kamal Shah, the police chief in the southern province of Sindh, said police had also seized a 10-tonne stash of explosive ammonium nitrate powder tied to the same plotters.

The explosives, found in 250 40-kg bags, were discovered in a raid on a warehouse in Karachi’s middle-class residential district of Katiawar.

He said the three men were arrested yesterday in the southern port city, where police also seized a Volkswagen Beetle packed with 10 kg of explosives the militants had intended to use to attack two US diplomats.

“We have arrested three militants who were planning to target American diplomats,” he told a news conference. “They have confessed to this plan.”

He identified those detained as Asif Zaheer, Sohail Noor and Mohammad Yousuf. He said they were members of the extremist Muslim Harkat-e-Jihad Islami group (Movement for Islamic Holy War) and had received training in Afghanistan.

Shah said Zaheer, an explosives expert, was also a suspect in earlier attacks in Karachi, including an attack on a Sheraton Hotel in May that killed 14 people, among them 11 French naval engineers. He said registration documents for the Toyota car used in the Sheraton bombing were found in Zaheer’s possession.

Shah said in the latest plot, Zaheer planned to ram the Volkswagen into the diplomat’s car on Karachi’s main road artery, Shar-e-Faisal. He did not identify the diplomats targeted.

A spokesman for the US embassy in Pakistan declined comment on the arrests.

Pakistan’s interior minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said he was still receiving information but he did not think the plot was related to a visit to Pakistan by the US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Christina Rocca from today.

“At the moment, these people are under arrest and are being interrogated. We will know the details soon,” the interior minister said.

Woman humiliated

Pakistan’s leading rights group said today it was shocked at the public humiliation of a woman councillor beaten and paraded naked through a village on the orders of a powerful landlord. The News on Sunday newspaper said the incident happened on December 7 in a village near Sialkot.

It said in an ordeal that lasted several hours, the woman, the widowed mother of seven, was beaten, stripped and paraded naked through the village by the landlord and his sons after she refused to back his candidate in a local election.

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