updated 1/18/2004 6:22:57 AM ET 2004-01-18T11:22:57

Pakistani agents arrested seven al-Qaida suspects and confiscated some weaponry in a raid early Sunday in the southern city of Karachi, officials said.

Intelligence officers conducted the raid in an eastern district of Karachi at around 3 a.m., arresting five men and two women, said an intelligence officer, who requested anonymity.

He said two of the men were Egyptians, three were Afghans and the two women were Arabs, but gave no details about their alleged rank in the terror network.

"Our information is that these are al-Qaida people," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Associated Press.

"One is a recognized man," Ahmed said, but had no details about how senior he was.

Five hand grenades, four handguns, ammunition and maps of Afghanistan and Pakistan were seized, the intelligence officer said.

Eyewitnesses said that about 50-60 armed officers took part in the raid at the Qasim Apartments complex in the Gulistan-e-Jauhar area of the city, surrounding the building before moving in.

Sindh provincial police chief Syed Kamal Shah confirmed there had been some arrests early Sunday, but did not know how many or of whom.

City police chief Asad Ashraf Malik said he did not know about the arrests, saying they were not done through the police.

The arrests follow an increase in Pakistani operations in the rugged borderlands near Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaida fugitives. The areas, controlled by semi-autonomous tribes, are believed to be a potential hiding place for al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terrorism and has arrested more than 500 al-Qaida suspects over the past two years. Many have been handed over to U.S. authorities.

They include Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 leader of the organization, and Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah, both alleged to be organizers of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. All three were arrested in Pakistani cities.

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