KARACHI, Pakistan – Pakistani police have detained seven men for questioning in connection with last week's deadly car bombing against a U.S. Consulate and an attack last month that killed 11 French engineers, officials said Thursday.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the seven belong to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni Muslim extremist group. The group is known for attacking Shiite Muslims, but authorities suspect it may have expanded its targets to include foreigners because of anger over the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.
Police said two of them — believed to be senior Lashkar-e-Jhangvi figures — were detained several days ago and the others on Wednesday. A cache of explosives and weapons, including 90 Kalashnikov assault rifles, was confiscated in the second raid.
None of the seven has been charged. Officials said the men were being questioned about Friday's blast at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, which killed 12 Pakistanis and wounded 50 people, as well as the May 8 suicide bombing in front of a luxury hotel that killed 11 French engineers and three other people, including the bomber.
U.S. officials had said they believed the attacks were carried out either by Usama bin Laden's terrorist Al Qaeda network or Pakistani extremists, some of whom have close ties to Al Qaeda.
Police said they were also trying to determine if the seven men were involved in the January kidnapping and slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Karachi. Pearl disappeared while working on a story about Pakistani militants. Four men are currently on trial in that case and police are seeking seven others.
Violence against foreigners has increased since Musharraf joined the U.S.-led effort against terrorism. In March, a suicide attacker lobbed grenades into a church in the diplomatic enclave of Islamabad, killing four others, including two Americans — a U.S. Embassy employee and her teen-age daughter.
The U.S. Consulate reopened Tuesday under heavy security. Rolls of concertina wire encircled the 10-foot-wide hole that the bomb left in the compound's outer wall. Only American citizens are allowed to enter the premises.
An unknown group calling itself "al-Qanoon," or "The Law," claimed responsibility for Friday's attack.
U.S. officials in Washington have said they believe Al Qaeda or Pakistan militant groups are to blame, though they acknowledge they have no direct evidence.