Pakistan on Alert After Killing Top Terrorist
Pacific Rim Bureau (CNSNews.com) - Pakistan ordered a security alert and warned foreign missions about possible retaliatory attacks after security forces killed the country's most-wanted terrorist - the man blamed for two failed assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf and involvement in the murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl.
Troops shot dead leading al-Qaeda member Amjad Hussain Farooqi in a gun battle on Sunday in the southern city of Nawabshah.
Police declared the alert and stepped up security at foreign missions, government buildings and places of worship in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and location of some of the deadliest attacks mounted by Farooqi and his fellow extremists.
Additional arrests followed Farooqi's death, police officials told Pakistani media, although there was no confirmation of a report in some Middle East media outlets that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been captured.
Zawahiri most recently emerged earlier this month with a videotaped message released to Arabic television stations, in which he predicted an American "defeat" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. has a $25-million-dollar reward on the head of the Egyptian.
The killing of Farooqi is the latest coup for Musharraf, who shifted quickly after 9/11 from an ally of the Taliban militia, which ruled most of Afghanistan and sheltered al-Qaeda, to a backer of the U.S.-led war against Islamic terrorism.
Pakistan has since then become a key ally in the campaign, arresting hundreds of al-Qaeda members and suspected members. Bin Laden remains at large, suspected by the U.S. to be hiding out in remote areas of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.
Musharraf hailed Farooqi's killing, telling reporters during a visit to the Netherlands that "a very big terrorist has been eliminated."
Farooqi was a leading member of a Sunni terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, banned by Musharraf shortly before 9/11 because of its involvement in sectarian attacks against Shias. He also had ties with other banned groups, including Jaish-e-Mohammed.
He reportedly was active in terrorism before 9/11, and was believed to be one of the men who hijacked an Indian Airlines flight to Taliban-controlled Kandahar in December 2000. The hostages were freed only after the Indian government agreed to free three leading Pakistani terrorists.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had close ties with the Taliban, and after U.S.-led forces overthrew the militia in Afghanistan in late 2001, U.S. officials said the Pakistani group "became active in aiding other terrorists with safe houses, false identities, and protection."
The following year was a bloody one for Farooqi and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who were linked to two suicide bombings in Karachi, a sprawling city of 14 million people. Eleven French military technicians were killed in a blast outside an international hotel, and 12 Pakistanis died in a bombing at the U.S. consulate in the city.
Pakistani authorities also accused the group of an attack on a March 2002 Protestant church in Islamabad, in which five people died, two of them Americans.
Farooqi was one of seven men identified as having been behind Pearl's kidnapping and murder that same year.
The American reporter disappeared in Karachi in January while investigating Islamic terrorism. His captors later videotaped his murder, which was posted on the Internet in a foretaste of this year's spate of kidnappings and killings in Iraq.
Pearl's body was found in a shallow grave near the city in May 2002.
Last December, Farooqi's group was accused of two failed assassination attempts against Musharraf with a fortnight of each other.
At a press conference, Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, said Farooqi was a known associate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 attack mastermind who was captured in Pakistan last year.
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