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Pak arrests Americans near India

Islamabad, Dec. 19 (Reuters): Pakistan has arrested between six and nine suspected militants including three foreigners near Lahore, although it was not clear if they had links to al Qaida, the government and police said today.

“We have arrested six to eight people including two Americans and one Canadian national,” information minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said, adding it was not yet certain whether they had links with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network.

An intelligence source said the police raiding party included FBI agents and added that satellite phones were discovered in the house raided overnight in a small village near the border with India.

The source said nine arrests were made, including a medical doctor who had travelled to Afghanistan frequently, even after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

But Ahmad said he was not aware of any doctor being arrested, or if the suspects had links to al Qaida.

“We don’t know whether they have any links with al Qaida,” Ahmad said. “They may have links but we cannot confirm it now.”

Local police said there was an exchange of gunfire at the time of the raid, although nobody was injured. The raiding party took all the men in the house into custody, they added.

In October, Pakistani authorities working with the FBI arrested a prominent orthopaedic surgeon, Amir Aziz, near Lahore on suspicions of helping the al Qaida.

Aziz, released after a month, said he was questioned by the US agents on his visits to Afghanistan and contacts with the ousted Taliban and bin Laden.

Pakistan’s new civilian Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who has a wafer-thin majority in parliament, will seek a mandatory vote of confidence on December 30.

The official APP news agency reported today that the date was decided at a meeting of Jamali’s Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-QA) and its allied parties.

Pakistan’s constitution requires the Prime Minister to face a vote of confidence in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, within 60 days of taking the post.

Jamali was elected prime minister on November 21 on a thin majority, winning 172 votes out of 328 cast. He was sworn in as Prime Minister two days later by President Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

Pearl suspect killed

The police said a leading Islamic militant suspected of involvement in the murder of US reporter Daniel Pearl may have blown himself up today while making bombs in Karachi.

Four people died when an explosion caused a three-storey building to collapse in Karachi’s eastern Korangi district. Police said they had found 5 kg of explosives packed in the fuel tank of a motorcycle in the ruins of the building, as well as an identity card bearing a photo resembling leading terror suspect Asif Ramzi. ”We have found an identity card bearing a picture which resembles Asif Ramzi,” the police said.

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