ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Authorities were questioning seven al-Qaida suspects seized in a raid near the Afghan frontier after a tip from U.S. intelligence, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
The officials claimed that the detainees included a Saudi national linked to the 2005 London transit bombings. However, British investigators said they were seeking no foreign suspects over the attacks.
Capturing so many al-Qaida suspects alive would represent a fresh blow to the terror network in Pakistan, already under fire from stepped-up U.S. missile strikes on its hideouts across the Afghan frontier.
They also suggest Islamabad is working closely with Washington against Islamist militants, despite routine Pakistani protests over the missile attacks.
Two Pakistani security officials told The Associated Press that a Saudi called Zabi ul Taifi was among the seven caught when Pakistani forces mounted a raid on Wednesday near the northwestern city of Peshawar.
They said the swoop was in response to a tip-off from American intelligence, whose agents watched the capture in the village of Bara Qadeem from a nearby car. The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
Spokesmen for the U.S. military and FBI said their agencies weren't involved. The CIA declined to comment.
A U.S. counterterrorism official told The Associated Press that "Taifi was among the top two dozen al-Qaida leaders."
"The fact that Taifi, a senior al-Qaida operations planner, is off the streets is significant," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. "He was deeply involved in internal and external operations plotting."
Pakistan's Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik identified those detained as a foreigner and six Pakistanis. He said they included "high value targets" but did not elaborate.
Much of Pakistan's border region has fallen under the control of Taliban and al-Qaida militants and is believed to be a likely hiding place for Osama bin Laden.
The Pakistani security officials did not specify what role Taifi allegedly played in the London suicide bombings, which killed 52 people.
"We have reasons to believe that we got the right man who had played a role in the 2005 attacks in London," said one official, who said he received the information from security agents in Peshawar.
In London, police and intelligence officials said Taifi was not among suspects known to be linked to the 2005 bombings, but said checks into his background were under way.
Three of the London bombers were British-born men of Pakistani descent. Prosecutors in a 2007 British terrorism trial said two of the bombers trained at camps in northwest Pakistan.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently said three-fourths of the most serious terror plots investigated by British authorities had links to al-Qaida in Pakistan.
Officials said the suspects picked up Wednesday were in custody and under interrogation. It was unclear if they would face prosecution in Pakistan or extradition.
Associated Press Writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, David Stringer in London and Pamela Hess and Pauline Jelinek in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.