In major swoops across in Karachi and Sargodha, the Pakistani police nabbed 13 suspected terrorists linked to the Al Qaeda, with authorities claiming that this had averted major terror strikes on VVIPs in the country.
While six Taliban militants, including a major recruiter of suicide bombers, were arrested in two raids in the eastern city of Sargodha, seven Lashkar-e-Jhangvi terrorists were picked up on Saturday in Karachi, officials said.
The police recovered suicide vests, explosives and huge amount of banned drugs like heroin from the terrorists indicating that they planned to hit politicians, foreign targets and places of worship, said the officials, adding that the strikes may have been in the south and east of the country.
The six suspected Taliban terrorists caught in the eastern city of Sargodha on Monday were from Tehrik-e-Taliban and may have been on a mission to carry out revenge attacks against the strike on their leader Baitullah Mehsud, the police said.
"They have links with the Tehrik-e-Taliban and some people in Miranshah (in North Waziristan). Due to the connivance and abetment of these elements, they were planning to carry out attacks in different areas," district police chief Usman Anwar told reporters.
Among those arrested was Zaid Mustafa, who, Anwar said, recruited suicide bombers for training in Afghanistan. Mustafa is also suspected to be an intermediary between the Taliban in the tribal belt and militants in other parts of Pakistan, he added.
Some officials said Mustafa was the chief of Tehrik-e-Taliban in the Punjab province and allegedly provided logistics and support to militants for attacks in Lahore, Karachi and Rawalpindi.
The arrested terrorists had plans to carry out attacks next week on 'imambargahs' or Shia prayer halls, police posts, politicians, "foreign targets", a public gathering and textile mills in Faisalabad, Anwar said.
Television channels beamed footages of the arrested men, who had beards and long hair.
On Saturday night, the Karachi police nabbed seven members of the Al Qaeda-linked outlawed group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi that has been blamed for abortive attacks on former President Pervez Musharraf and the killing of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is a group close to the Taliban and has also been linked to attacks on former former premier Shaukat Aziz Tarin.
The suspects had plans to target offices of intelligence agencies and government officials in the city, Deputy Inspector General of Police Saud Mirza told reporters.
The police seized three suicide jackets, 15 kg of explosives, four AK-47 rifles, four pistols, two gas masks, five kg of ball bearings, 200 bullets and remote controls and batteries for explosive devices from the men.