KARACHI, Aug 10: Pakistani authorities on Thursday arrested an unspecified number of British nationals, believed to be Muslims, in a closely coordinated intelligence swoop that was said to be simultaneous with the arrests of 21 British Muslims in the United Kingdom, a top government official source told Dawn on late Thursday night.

The source, who wished not to be named, said closely guarded intelligence shared by Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States led to the arrests of militants thought to be planning to blow up trans-Atlantic flights from London.

The official declined to say where exactly the arrests had been made in Pakistan, but other sources said the British nationals had been arrested in southern Pakistan.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam confirmed to Dawn that earlier arrests made by Pakistan provided the crucial intelligence that led to the timely arrests of more militants – in the UK and in Pakistan.

“The information gathered by earlier arrests provided the intelligence that led to the arrests of British nationals in the United Kingdom planning to blow up airliners flying between Britain and the United States,” she said, declining to give further details.

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao also said intelligence provided by Islamabad led to the arrests of militants in Britain. He confirmed that some more arrests had been made in Pakistan.

Another government official, who also requested not to be named, said the first indication of the plot to blow up America-bound flights from the United Kingdom came from interrogation of suspects taken into custody in Pakistan, prompting an intense surveillance operation in intelligence liaison among Islamabad, Washington and London.

Officials said intelligence agencies had lately arrested a number of Central Asian militants who had provided information on planned attacks on the US and British interests. A pre-dawn raid in June had led to the arrest of Balochistan chapter chief of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Usman Kurd.

The officials said clues from these suspects led the authorities to the militants arrested on Thursday.

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