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Pakistani Police said Friday they had arrested three men suspected of planning suicide attacks on foreigners and minority Shiite Muslims in southern Pakistan, and authorities in the capital reported the capture of two leaders of an al-Qaida-linked sectarian group.
Police detained the suspected suicide attackers late Thursday after a shootout at a house in Karachi, the southern port that is Pakistan's biggest city, said Fayaz Khan, a senior investigator. He said no one was injured.
Three ready-to-use suicide vests as well as grenades and firearms were found in the raid, Khan said.
The three - identified as Mohammad Shahid, Farhan Ahmed and Abdul Ghani, all in their 20s - are associates of suspects in a suicide attack near the US Consulate in Karachi in March 2006 that killed a US diplomat and three Pakistanis, Khan said.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has banned a string of extremist groups amid evidence that sectarian extremists are forging closer links with al-Qaida and pro-Taliban fighters based in Pakistan's remote border regions.
Khan said the three Karachi suspects had plotted to attack a foreign delegation at an arms fair in the city last summer and during the recent Shiite Muslim festival of Ashura. Neither plot came to fruition, Khan said. He didn't give the nationality of the foreign delegates.
The two men captured near the capital, Islamabad, were senior figures in Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned Sunni militant group with links to al-Qaida, officials said.
The suspects, identified as Rashid Mahmood Satti and Chota Usman, were arrested in a raid on the outskirts of Islamabad earlier this week, an intelligence official said.
A police official said officers seized guns, hand grenades and other munitions from a house where the men had been living.
Satti and Usman had masterminded several attacks on Shiite mosques in recent years and were also involved in killing two senior police officers, the police official said. He requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
While most Sunnis and Shiites coexist peacefully in overwhelmingly Muslim Pakistan, extremists from both sects are blamed for regular attacks on each other's community.