MULTAN, Pakistan – Police arrested five suspected members of an outlawed Islamic militant group that has been blamed for killing Shiite Muslims and the kidnap-slaying of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (search), officials said Monday.
The suspected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (search) members were picked up during raids in Multan, about 390 miles south of Islamabad, over the past week, said Hamid Mukhtar Gondal, a senior superintendent of police in the city.
Gondal said two of the men were senior leaders of the group and one of them was wanted in the killing of eight policemen in attacks in Multan in 1999 and 2000.
Police said they also found a "hit list" with the names of several Shiite Muslims, including a cleric and businessman from Multan. They also seized weapons and grenades.
The leaders were identified as Abdul Majeed and Shahabuddin. Both are suspected of involvement in attacks on Shiite Muslims, who are a minority in Pakistan.
Differences between Sunni and Shiite Muslims date back to the 7th century when they fell out over the issue of succession to Islam's Prophet Mohammed after his death.
Last year the government banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and several other Islamic groups in an attempt to crack down on religious extremism in the country.
The group has been linked to Pearl's kidnapping and slaying last year. In recent months, members of the group are suspected of involvement in attacks targeting Westerners and Pakistani Christians, apparently in retaliation for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's (search) support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is believed to have had close links with Afghanistan's Taliban militia, which was ousted from power by U.S.-led forces in late 2001. Gondal said Shahabuddin trained in Afghanistan for four years.