Pakistani Police Arrest Suspected Terror Leader

Police on Wednesday arrested a high-ranking member of an Al Qaeda-linked extremist group suspected of orchestrating attacks that have killed more than 150 mostly Shiite Muslim Pakistanis, an official said.

Usman Kurd, a member of the outlawed Sunni Muslim group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was arrested after trading gunfire with police in the southern port city of Karachi, said Fayyaz Khan, a senior police officer.

Police acting on a tip cornered Kurd in a western Karachi neighborhood and ordered him to surrender, Khan said. Kurd fired a pistol as he walked toward the security forces, who returned fire and overpowered him.

Nobody was wounded in the exchange. Kurd also was carrying a hand grenade, police said.

CountryWatch: Pakistan

Elsewhere in Pakistan, a roadside bomb blast targeted a military convoy in a northwestern tribal region, killing three soldiers and wounding three others, an official said.

North Waziristan, on the border with Afghanistan, has witnessed an increase in militant attacks against Pakistani forces hunting terrorists.

Kurd was accused of heading Lashkar-e-Jhangvi's operations in the restive southwestern Baluchistan province, where he faced 25 charges of murder and other violent acts, Khan said.

Kurd, in his mid-30s, had trained in Afghanistan before its ruling Taliban militia was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, Khan said. Crimes he has been accused of organizing include a March 2004 attack on a Shiite mourning procession in Quetta that killed more than 40 people. He was also linked to the June 2003 shootings of 12 Shiite police trainees in Quetta.

There was a $33,000 bounty on his head.

Pakistan has a history of violence between rival Sunni and Shiite extremist groups. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was outlawed in 2001 for its alleged involvement in the killing of hundreds of Shiites.

About 97 percent of Pakistan's 150 million people are Muslim. The overwhelming majority are Sunni.