Authorities have arrested a man they called the alleged mastermind of a deadly bombing near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi two years ago, but another key member of his network remains at large, a senior official said Thursday.
Naveed-ul Hassan was detained Wednesday at a clothing shop he had been running for the last few months near Wagah, the main border crossing point between Pakistan and India, near the eastern city of Lahore, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.
Ahmed said Hassan had been the mastermind of the consulate bombing, which killed 14 Pakistanis in June 2002, and several other attacks — including a blast during New Year’s celebrations in 2002 at a popular club in Karachi that wounded at least nine people.
Suspect in Pearl killing shot to death
His arrest was announced hours after police in the southern city of Karachi revealed they had shot to death another prominent Islamic militant suspected in the 2002 abduction and beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
The actions mark the latest in a series of high-profile arrests and killings of suspects wanted for attacks in Pakistan since its military leader, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, made the Muslim country a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror in late 2001.
Hassan allegedly was a member of the outlawed militant group Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen al-Alami and had a $33,300 bounty on his head.
Ahmed said another key member of Hassan’s network, whom he did not identify, was still at large.
Syed Kamal Shah, police chief for southern Sindh province, said Hassan’s arrest was the result of “proactive intelligence gathering.” He said he would be moved to Karachi for questioning.
“We expect to make some more arrests after his interrogation,” Shah said.
Four others convicted in consulate bombing
So far, four men have been convicted in the consulate bombing. Two were sentenced to death and two others given life imprisonment. Another is in custody.
On Wednesday, police and intelligence agents shot and killed Asim Ghafoor in a raid in Karachi that sparked a shootout as he tried to flee. Ghafoor was wanted in the 2002 kidnapping and killing of Pearl, a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal who had been researching Islamic militancy.
Police also say Ghafoor was a close aide of Amjad Hussain Farooqi, who was Pakistan’s most-wanted militant until he was killed Sept. 26 in a shootout with security forces in southern Pakistan.
Farooqi was reputed to be the top Pakistani facilitator for al-Qaida. He was suspected in the Pearl killing and two attempts to assassinate Musharraf in December 2003. Musharraf survived both attacks on his motorcades but 17 other people were killed.
So far, four men have been convicted in Pearl’s killing. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Islamic militant, was sentenced to death, and three other Pakistani associates were imprisoned for life. All four have appealed their sentences.
Four wanted in Pearl killing still at large
Four others wanted in the Pearl case are still at large, said Manzoor Mughal, another police official in Karachi.
Since July, Pakistan says it has rounded up dozens of suspected terrorists even as it wages a military campaign against al-Qaida-linked militants along its lawless border with Afghanistan.
The suspects include alleged al-Qaida computer expert, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, and Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted for the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in east Africa that killed more than 200 people.
On Thursday, an intelligence official in Lahore said authorities have captured Osama Nazir, a member of the outlawed Jaish-e-Mohammed group, for planning a grenade attack on an Islamabad church in 2002 that killed five people, including two Americans. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nazir was picked up at a mosque in the eastern city of Faisalabad this week.
In the past three years, Pakistan has handed over to the United States about 600 al-Qaida suspects. The counterterrorism efforts of Musharraf have made him a key ally of the West but drawn criticism at home from those uneasy at his strong ties with Washington.