ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistani security agencies have launched raids across the country since the killing of a key Al Qaeda (search) operative over the weekend, arresting a number of suspected Islamic militants, the interior minister said Tuesday.
Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao said the suspects rounded up had ties to the dead man, Amjad Hussain Farooqi (search). But Sherpao would not say how many suspects had been rounded up or whether they included any major figures. And there was no indication any of those arrested were part of Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden's inner circle.
An intelligence official in Karachi said 11 other suspected Pakistani militants have been captured based on information yielded from interrogations of three suspects arrested during the shootout in which Farooqi was killed on Sunday.
Officials said at least one of the arrests was in Karachi — a hotbed of militancy in southern Pakistan. The man arrested was said to be a close associate of Farooqi's but was not identified. Two others were arrested in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital, Islamabad.
Farooqi had close contacts with Al Qaeda leaders and was involved in "almost all major terrorist attacks in the recent years" including two assassination attempts on Pakistan's president and the 2002 beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (search), Sherpao said.
"We are trying to break their network," he said.
Bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri (search), are both believed hiding somewhere along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Officials have also confirmed four arrests in towns in southern Sindh province on Monday, near the town of Nawabshah where Farooqi was killed.
A senior security official in Islamabad, speaking on condition of anonymity, said raids were being conducted across the country to capture more terrorists, including in Punjab, Sindh and North West Frontier Province and more arrests are expected.