NAWABSHAH, Sept 26: An alleged terrorist, who was later identified as an Al Qaeda kingpin Amjad Farooqi, was killed and seven other people, including two women and three children , were arrested after security forces raided a house in Ghulam Hyder Shah Colony here on Sunday.

Acting on a tip-off, security forces surrounded the area before raiding the house. The inmates offered resistance and opened fire on the raiding party which retaliated and also fired tear gas shells inside the house.

The alleged terrorist tried to escape but he was shot dead by security forces. Two women and three children who came out of the house were taken into custody. The security forces also arrested two other persons whose identities were not disclosed, after an hour-long exchange of fire.

The body was taken to the People's Medical College Hospital for postmortem and later shifted to an undisclosed place. Sources said the raiding party seized laptops, CDs, grenades and documents from the arrested persons.

Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao and Information Minister Sheikh Rashid confirmed that the killed suspect was Amjad Farooqi. "I can confirm that Amjad Farooqi has been killed in an encounter with security forces and we have also arrested three important terror suspects," said Sheikh Rashid.

"We will disclose the identity of his accomplices in few days. They are all Pakistanis and very important suspects," the minister said. Amjad Farooqi, allegedly behind an assassination attempt on President Pervez Musharraf and indicted in the murder of US journalist, Daniel Pearl.

Amjad Farooqi, Pakistan's most wanted terrorist, had a 20 million rupee bounty on his head. A security official in Islamabad said that Farooqi, 30, and his accomplices put up "very strong" resistance, firing at security officials with automatic weapons from inside their hideout in Nawabshah.

President Musharraf had named Farooqi as the "Pakistani mastermind" of the Dec 25 assassination plot on his convoy by two suicide bombers who rammed their explosives-laden vehicles close to presidential motorcade, leaving more than a dozen people dead.

The Christmas Day attack came two weeks after a road bridge was blown up in an attempt to kill Gen Musharraf while he was going to his official army house residence in Rawalpindi.

Amjad Farooqi was the lynchpin of the Al Qaeda network in Pakistan and had also been involved in the kidnap-murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl in Karachi in early 2002, the official said.

He was indicted over Pearl's murder but was never tracked down. Security officials had described Farooqi as an "extremely intelligent and elusive terrorist operative," a master planner who created cells of militants independent of each other and assigned them different jobs.

Farooqi was a close associate of Libyan Abu Faraj Farj, operational chief of Al Qaeda in the region, who has eluded a nation wide hunt by security agencies. His connection with Islamic militants came early when, as a teenager, he joined the Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami militant group.

In 1992 he was sent to Afghanistan for training and fought alongside the Taliban in their battles against the rival Northern Alliance, according to security officials.

After the Taliban conquered most of Afghanistan in 1996 the young fighter's contacts with Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his closest lieutenants deepened. Farooqi had close contact with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Al Qaeda's number three and the alleged chief planner of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammad was arrested in March 2003 near Islamabad.

Farooqi provided the militants who kept Pearl in a shed on Karachi's outskirts after the reporter was abducted on January 23, 2002, a police officer who investigated the case had told AFP.

He also recruited the trio of men who slit Pearl's throat as a video-camera filmed and was said to be "very close" to Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British-born militant convicted of plotting Pearl's abduction and murder. The provincial Sindh government had offered a reward for Farooqi but a nation wide hunt had failed to deliver him.

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