Pakistani intelligence officials helped British security agencies crack a terrorist plot to blow up U.S.-bound aircraft and have arrested two or three suspects, officials said Thursday.
"Pakistan played a very important role in uncovering and breaking this international terrorist network," Foreign Ministry spokesman Tasnim Aslam said.
"Cooperation in this particular case was spread over a period of time. There were some arrests in Pakistan which were coordinated with arrests in the U.K.," she said.
She declined to give details about the arrests, including the number of suspects, their identities or when they were arrested.
But a senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to comment on the matter, said "two or three local people" suspected in the plot were arrested a few days ago in Lahore and Karachi.
British police and security services said 24 people were arrested in what they said was a plot to simultaneously blow up several aircraft bound for the United States by using explosives smuggled in hand luggage.
Aslam said the arrests in Britain followed intelligence cooperation between Britain, Pakistan and the United States.
A Pakistani intelligence official said an Islamic militant arrested near the Afghan-Pakistan border several weeks ago provided a lead that played a role in "unearthing the plot." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Pakistan, a key ally of Britain and the U.S. in the war on terrorism, has been troubled by Islamic militancy.
Three of the four suicide attackers in the July 7, 2005, bombings on the London transport system that killed 52 people were British Muslims of Pakistani origin and had visited Pakistan before the attacks.
One of the bombers visited a pro-Taliban seminary run by the hard-line Jamaat al-Dawat group in the eastern city of Lahore before the blasts, but officials in Islamabad say none of the London bombers received militant training or support during their visits.
On Thursday, Pakistan placed the hard-line group's leader, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, under house arrest for a month in Lahore. There was no immediate indication the detention was linked to the aircraft plot. Lahore police chief Khawaja Khalid Farooq said authorities feared Saeed's plans to address a rally Saturday could lead to unrest.
Saeed formerly headed the militant group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba until 2002 when it was banned by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf because of suspected terrorist links. Washington put Jamaat al-Dawat on a list of terrorist organizations for its links to Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.
Pakistan has suffered repeated terrorist attacks by Islamic militants, and has waged a counterterrorism campaign since the Sept. 11 attacks on America, after it ended its support for the Taliban regime that had hosted Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
It has launched military operations against Islamic militants along the Afghan border and arrested key al-Qaida leaders, including Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
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