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Battle cry against ‘evil ideology’

London, July 16 (Reuters): British Prime Minister Tony Blair called today for a hearts and minds struggle against the “evil ideology” of al Qaida as the death toll from last week’s London suicide bombings rose to 55.

Pakistani security services detained two men overnight in Lahore on suspicion of links with one of the four British Muslims who blew themselves up on July 7 on three London underground trains and a bus.

Blair called for a battle of ideas against what he called the fanatical beliefs and perversion of religion behind the London attacks and others around the world by the militant Islamist al Qaida network.

He said the opponent was an “evil ideology” and a strain within Islam that was altogether removed from the “essential decency and truth” of that religion. “It is not a clash of civilisations ' all civilised people, Muslim or other, feel revulsion at it. But it is a global struggle. It is a battle of ideas and hearts and minds, both within Islam and outside it,” Blair said.

He said claims by militant Islamists to act in the cause of the Palestinian, Afghan or Iraqi people were belied by attacks in those countries in which innocent civilians were killed.

“We should lay bare the almost devilish logic behind such manipulation,” he said. “Why, if it is the cause of Muslims that concerns them, do they kill so many with such callous indifference'”

He said such an ideology could only be beaten “by confronting it, symptoms and causes, head on”.

Pakistani security forces detained two men overnight in Lahore on suspicion of links with another of the bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, bringing the total number of arrests in Pakistan to six.

“We are interrogating whether these two people had any links with Tanweer,” an intelligence official said.

Officials of two security agencies today questioned teachers, students and other staff of a madarsa in Lahore which Tanweer was thought to have visited in 2004. The school has connections with Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Asadullah Farooq, administrator of the madarsa, later denied any link with Tanweer.

“Neither any person with this name (Tanweer) visited us nor do we know him,” he said. “We have stopped entertaining foreign students after 9/11,” he said referring to al Qaida’s attacks on the US on September 11, 2001.

Pakistani intelligence officials say Tanweer met Osama Nazir, a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, in Faisalabad in 2003. Nazir was arrested last December for the 2002 bombing of a church in Islamabad that killed two Americans among others.

Four men were rounded up from Osman Town neighbourhood in Faisalabad this week, relatives and locals said. Nazir had also been arrested in Osman Town. Farhat Bibi, the wife of one of the detained man, Shehzad Ahmed, said she had not heard from her husband since the night of July 12 when he was taken away at gunpoint by some 20 men in black uniforms and a handful in plain clothes.

“They asked my husband his name and where he came from and then took him away,” the mother of two children said.

Another man, Nazir Ahmed, was rounded up from an adjoining lane in the same way, relatives said.

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