Pakistan arrests army officer allegedly linked to Islamic extremists
A senior Pakistani army officer suspected of having links to an Islamic extremist group has been arrested, authorities said Tuesday, a move possibly aimed at deflating Western concerns that the nation’s military is doing little to end ties with dangerous organizations.
Ali Khan, a brigadier assigned to Pakistan’s army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, has been in custody for some time, said a Pakistani military official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss such issues. The official would not say how long Khan has been under arrest, where he was being held or which organization was involved.
Khan allegedly has ties to Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group banned in Pakistan and other countries that advocates the establishment of an Islamic caliphate across the Muslim world, the Associated Press reported.
The arrest comes as Pakistan has been pummeled by criticism from U.S. lawmakers that its military and intelligence communities refuse to break off links with terrorist organizations. The criticism has been especially intense since it was discovered that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been living in a compound in the military city of Abbottabad for five years before U.S. commandos killed him there in a raid May 2.
Officials in Washington also say that Pakistan, after receiving intelligence from the U.S. about the location of bomb-making factories on the Afghan border, tipped off militants at those locations and allowed them to escape. The facilities belonged to the Afghan Taliban wing known as the Haqqani network, U.S. officials said, and produced roadside bombs used against Western forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s military denies it tipped off militants, claiming that on at least two occasions information provided by the U.S. about bomb-making sites was wrong.
Suspicions in Washington about collusion between Pakistani security forces and militant groups have further strained the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, which is at one of its lowest points in years. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for holding back billions of dollars in economic and military aid if Pakistan does not pursue militants who carry out cross-border attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, meanwhile, is angry over Washington’s decision to carry out the Bin Laden raid without informing Islamabad in advance. Authorities have reportedly arrested Pakistanis suspected of supplying information to the CIA about Bin Laden’s compound, a move experts say was meant to convey the country’s displeasure with Washington.
Times staff writer Rodriguez reported from Kabul and special correspondent Khan from Islamabad.
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