|Thursday, 19 September 2002|
Pakistan's Musharraf vows to flush out al Qaeda
KARACHI, Pakistan, Sept 17 (Reuters) - President Pervez Musharraf vowed on Tuesday to continue pursuing Islamic extremists sheltering in Pakistan, claiming a major victory with the arrest of a top suspect in the September 11 attacks.
Musharraf said the arrest of key al Qaeda suspect Ramzi Bin al-Shaibah demonstrated Pakistan's progress in the hunt for foreign Islamic militants.
Bin al-Shaibah has been handed over to U.S. custody along with four other suspected members of al Qaeda, the network blamed for last year's attacks on the United States.
Musharraf said al Qaeda militants and other extremists had reached Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan.
"We have captured a number of them and seemingly broken down their network," he told top bankers in Karachi. "They have to leave Pakistan. We will not allow them to use our soil."
Bin al-Shaibah was arrested in Karachi on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks following a three-hour gunbattle with police in which two al Qaeda suspects died.
Another nine al Qaeda suspects were arrested in the southern port city last week.
Musharraf also vowed to crack down on local militant groups involved in attacks on foreign nationals and religious minorities in the country.
"We are not going to tolerate extremism in any form. The extremist threat will be met with full force and no one will be spared who attempts to disrupt the peace, life and property of the citizens of Pakistan," Musharraf said.
Pakistan has seen several bloody attacks on Western and Christian targets since General Musharraf threw his weight behind the U.S.-led war on terror last year.
Eleven French Naval engineers and three Pakistanis were killed in a suicide bombing in Karachi in May, while 12 people were killed in a car bomb attack outside the city's U.S. consulate on June 14.
American journalist Daniel Pearl was kidnapped in the city in January while researching a story on Islamic militants and was later murdered.
"Top leaders of local militant groups have been arrested, while with the passage of time others will also be held," Musharraf said. "We cannot allow a handful of fanatics to hold hostage the destiny of 140 million people."
Bin al-Shaibah is said to have been a prominent member of an al Qaeda cell based in the German city of Hamburg and is accused of playing a key role in planning the September 11 attacks with suspected ringleader Mohamed Atta.
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