The arrests came in weekend raids in Karachi, with the detainees being linked to an al-Qaida training camp being targeted in massive air strikes near the border with Afghanistan.

   

"Our security forces have arrested an eight-member gang of foreign al-Qaida operatives for their involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistan, including Thursday's attack on the corps commander's convoy in Karachi," Interior Minister Faisal Salih Hayat said on Sunday.

 

Musabir Urumchi, the nephew of top al-Qaida member Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, was among the arrested.

 

The minister said Urumchi, along with other foreign fighters, were behind several attacks, including the failed attempt on Lieutenant General Ahsan Salim Hayat's life in Karachi.

 

Key role

  

"They have confessed to a key role in the attack. They have a direct link to al-Qaida," Hayat said.

 

"The arrest is a major breakthrough for us"

Faisal Salih Hayat,
Interior Minister, Pakistan

The al-Qaida leader Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, one of the chief suspected planners of the September 11 attacks, was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003 in a raid on the garrison city of Rawalpindi near Islamabad.

  

The attack on the convoy of Lieutenant General Hayat killed seven soldiers, three policemen and a passer-by. The general escaped unhurt.

 

The leader of the newly captured gang was identified as Ataullah, an Uzbek national, Hayat said. The group had trained in Shakai in the tribal region of South Waziristan, he said.


"The arrest is a major breakthrough for us. This is breaking the back of the al-Qaida-linked network in Pakistan," Hayat said.

  

He said eight of those arrested called themselves the Jund Allah.   

 

A series of deadly attacks in Karachi over the past few weeks have left more than 60 people dead.

 

Pakistan has been a key component in the US-led 'war on terror' after initially helping propel al-Qaida's Afghanistan hosts, the Taliban, to power.

 

Pakistani forces have lost 17
men in five days of fighting

Soldiers killed

 

In ongoing clashes in the western tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, a bomb killed three paramilitary troops and wounded three more on Monday, local officials said.

   

The attack took place near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, the tribal region neighbouring South Waziristan where the army is mopping up after an offensive against fighters linked to al-Qaida.

   

Unidentified attackers used a remote-control device to blow up a paramilitary vehicle at about 0315 GMT, killing three troops and wounding three others, a local official told reporters at the scene of the blast, 15 km east of Miranshah.

   

Pakistani army and paramilitary forces have killed at least 55 people and lost 17 men in five days of intense fighting up to Sunday in South Waziristan, where they say more than 600 foreign fighters are hiding.