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US helping Pak identify suspects

Karachi, Jan. 11 (Reuters): US officials are helping Pakistani investigators to identify two foreign al Qaida suspects caught after a gun battle in Karachi, but have yet to ask Islamabad to hand them over, security sources said today.

Senior interior ministry official Javed Iqbal Cheema said Pakistan had not received any request from the US or any other country for the extradition of two Arabic-speaking suspects, arrested after a grenade and gun battle on Thursday.

“There is no such move as yet to hand them over to the US or any other country... we have not received any request,” Cheema said from Islamabad.

Pakistani newspapers quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying that one suspect — who identified himself as Abu Umar — was likely to be handed over to US in a day or so.

They also reported that the wife and children of Abu Umar were being flown to their homeland Morocco today.

Cheema said Pakistani security officials were interrogating the two foreign suspects, but their nationalities have not been ascertained as yet.

“The investigations are still going on, so I don’t think anyone’s family is leaving Pakistan,” he added.

Pakistani police have said one of the suspects was Yemeni and the other Egyptian, and they had been hiding for two-and-a- half months. Police said the men had given their names as Abu Hamza and Abu Umar.

Police also detained seven Pakistanis, including former international field hockey star Shahid Ali Khan. The Pakistanis, mostly members of Khan’s family, were released overnight.

Police said they had leads suggesting the two foreigners were linked with Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network, which is blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

An intelligence official close to the investigation said they had recovered four hand grenades, a laptop and “a few CDs in Arabic and English languages and published jihadi (holy struggle) materials” from the house.

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