Pakistani authorities have nabbed at least six collaborators of New York bombing suspect, including the co—owner of a catering company that organized some of the events for the US embassy, intelligence officials said.
The arrests made during the last couple of weeks show that Faisal Shehzad, the Pakistani—American man held for botched Time Square bombing, had interacted with the Pakistani extremists.
Those detained include a former army major, an employee of a cell phone company, and a computer expert, Shoaib Mughal, running a business in computer accessories in the capital, Islamabad.
The arrest of Salman Ashraf, who co—owned the upscale Hanif Rajput Catering Service, was of vital importance as he was specially recruited to attack foreign diplomats for whom the company provided services. A senior intelligence official said on the condition of anonymity that Ashraf had access to various embassies and could easily carry out terrorist attacks.
The US embassy also posted a statement on an official website warning US diplomats to avoid using servicing of the company for its links with the militants.
Ashraf, 35, studied in Houston till 2001, when he returned Pakistan to join the family business. As his father, Rana Ashraf, said he disappeared on May 10, when he was picked by the security agencies.
Officials said those arrested belong to well—to—do families and had no reason to join extremists group except “hatred” for the US, which is widespread in the country of 180 million.
The six were part of a ring that facilitated Shehzad’s travel to Pakistan’s tribal areas along Afghanistan border for training and also arranged money for the failed bombing.
The U.S. has suspected since the arrest of Shehzad at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai that he had links with Pakistani militants and put pressure on Pakistan to arrest his handlers and accomplices.
The reports of the arrests were leaked to the media after the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, James Jones, and CIA Director, Leon Panetta, visited Pakistan early this week.
The US officials met top political and military leadership, “updated” them on the investigation into the New York bombing and asked for more cooperation from their hosts.
Officials said some of the arrests were made after US passed vital tip—offs to Islamabad.