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Police in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city and financial capital, announced Monday the arrest of seven militants accused of planning suicide attacks. It was one of three suspected terror plots foiled throughout the country in the past two days. Together with a suicide bomb Sunday, the events underscored that Pakistan remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks even after the Aug. 7 death of Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.
After receiving a tipoff, on Sunday night Karachi police arrested seven members of the banned militant organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). In the raid police recovered three suicide jackets, four Kalashnikovs, two gas masks, 15 kilograms of explosives, and two kilograms of heroin, reports The New York Times.
One of the men arrested was a close associate of Amjad Hussain Farooqi, who is accused of trying to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf and of facilitating the 2002 beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
LeJ was previously known as a Sunni sectarian group, but has recently developed ties with the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda. A recent report by Jane's, an intelligence group, describes the outfit as "perhaps the country's most extreme and feared militant group."
[Police officer Fayyaz] Khan said finding drugs along with weapons was a first for Karachi police.
"It is often talked about that militants do drug business to finance their needs, but this is the first time we have arrested such a gang," Khan said, adding that the raid had yielded intelligence about where the drugs are sold and how the profits move back through Pakistan to the Afghan Taliban.
Meanwhile, on Monday, police claimed to have foiled a separate terror plot and arrested six alleged suicide bombers in Sargodha, 100 miles west of Lahore. According to The News, an English-language Pakistani daily, the suspects belong to the Taliban movement in the Punjab province and were carrying suicide jackets and weapons.
And on Sunday, police in Panjgur, a town along Pakistan's border with Iran in the Balochistan province, also claimed to have foiled a major terrorist attack. According to The Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper, police "seized two vehicles carrying 2,000 kilograms of explosives" and told reporters "this was the largest quantity of explosives ever seized in the area."
Recently, the death of Mr. Mehsud, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban, and subsequent confusion over his succession, had left some optimistic that the militant alliance would fall apart. The Globe and Mail reports:
The Taliban in Pakistan is in danger of crumbling, say analysts and local tribesmen, as a wave of defections, surrenders, arrests and bloody infighting has severely weakened a movement that until recently had appeared to pose an existential threat to Pakistan.
The sense of confusion was compounded over the weekend when yet another militant, Hakimullah Mehsud, claimed the leadership of the Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan. According to The Christian Science Monitor, "the announcement points to increasing factionalism within the group and adds to uncertainty as to who's actually calling the shots."