Police said Tuesday they have arrested two suspected militants wanted in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl.

Attaur Rehman and Faisal Bhatti were arrested Monday in Kashmor, a town about 300 miles northeast of Karachi, said Saghir Mugheri, an area police officer.

However, a lawyer for the men's families said they had been picked up by security agencies in 2003 and held secretly since then.

Mugheri said both men were members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant organization linked to Al Qaeda.

A senior detective on the team investigating Pearl's case said Rehman is suspected of leading the gang that kidnapped Pearl in Karachi on Jan. 23, 2002.

Rehman, also known as Naim Bukhari, supervised the reporter's detention in a shack for several days before he was killed, said the detective, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The detective said both suspects were also involved in the 1998 murder of two Iranian engineers in Karachi, the killing of two Shiite Muslim lawyers in 2000 and an unsuccessful attempt to release a fellow militant from a prison van in 1998 that left two guards dead.

Mugheri said police seized the pair in a car traveling toward Baluchistan province and that weapons and explosives were found in the vehicle. He said they would be transferred to Karachi for further investigation.

However, Maqboolur Rehman, a human rights lawyer who is not related to Attaur Rehman, claimed the two suspects had been in custody since being seized from Karachi's Nazimabad neighborhood in 2003.

Rehman said the men's families had heard nothing about them since then, and had filed complaints to the provincial High Court in Karachi.

Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was abducted while researching a story on Islamic militancy. His remains were later found in a shallow grave in Karachi's eastern outskirts.

Several men have been convicted of having links to Pearl's killing.

British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh was sentenced to death in July 2002 and three alleged accomplices were given life prison terms. Their appeals are pending before the Sindh High Court.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — Al Qaeda's No. 3 leader, who was caught in Pakistan and is now being held at the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — said he personally beheaded Pearl, according to a partial Pentagon transcript of his testimony at a military tribunal.