FBI Post At Karachi Airport Successful In Spotting Terror Suspects

Akhtar Jamal | July 7, 2008 | 8:10pm EDT
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Karachi, Pakistan (CNSNews.com) - FBI agents stationed at Pakistan's busiest airport here have had considerable success in the first few days of a joint operation with Pakistani officials, detaining at least four suspected terrorists.

Three Afghans believed to be important Taliban activists and one alleged associate of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are being questioned by FBI and Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials.

The Afghans, thought to have close links to the Taliban leadership, were detained at Karachi airport on Monday evening, when they arrived on a domestic flight from Quetta, a city near the border with Afghanistan.

Another Afghan national believed to have close links with bin Laden was arrested at the airport over the weekend. His identity is being kept secret for "security reasons."

The FBI is monitoring passengers at Karachi Airport via video cameras located in all arrival and departure halls. As suspects have been identified, American agents alerted members of the FIA, who carried out the arrests.

A Pakistani government official based at the airport, Mohammad Jan, said FBI agents appeared to be very pleased about the first man's arrest, telling the FIA members they believed the suspect "was an important link between Osama and his Arab backers in the Middle East."

Pakistan has allowed the FBI to establish a "monitoring post" at Karachi Airport, equipped with equipment including sophisticated computers directly linked to FBI systems in the United States. The arrests came just days after the post became operational last week.

The U.S. has released $60 million in aid to enhance security at Pakistani airports. The southern port city of Karachi is Pakistan's largest city, and the airport is the country's busiest.

Officials in Pakistan and the U.S. fear foreign militants fleeing the region after the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan may use Pakistani airports.

Meanwhile Pakistan has deployed helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to block any possible entry of al -Qaeda members from Afghanistan.

Army spokesman Brig. General Rashid Qureshi told journalists in Islamabad that Pakistan would not allow any wanted men to penetrate its territory.

If any suspected terrorists were caught, they would be handed over to a joint investigation team formed by the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, he added.

Qureshi said some suspected persons have already been taken into custody along the more than 1500 km-long borders with Afghanistan, and were being interrogated.

Some reports say more than 30 al-Qaeda members have been arrested in Pakistan and are facing investigation by a joint Pakistan-U.S. investigation team in which the FBI is playing a major role.

According to Qureshi, six other people closely associated with the two arrested Pakistani scientists have also been taken into custody for further investigation. The scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Choudhary Abdul Majed, were arrested last month following fears that they may have exchanged information regarding the production of weapons of mass destruction with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

In other continuing cooperation with the U.S. following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Pakistan has arrested two military officials suspected of links with the Taliban regime.

Defense expert Imran Khan said Pakistan has deployed intelligence officials on the ground in Afghanistan, near Tora Bora, to seek information regarding bin Laden and his associates, who are believed to be hiding in the area.

Khan said in a phone interview that it was in Pakistan's interest that bin Laden and his men were arrested as soon as possible.
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