Pakistan says it prevented new attacks by catching head of al-Qaida-linked militant group

New terror attacks foiled Thursday Pakistani security officials said, with the arrest of the head of an al-Qaida-linked extremist group accused of killing scores of minority Shiite Muslims.

"Of course, he was planning attacks, and his arrest means we broke their backbone," a security official said of Asif Chotto, the reputed head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who was captured this week with seven suspected members of the banned group in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near Islamabad.

Police have said they believe Chotto trained people to be suicide bombers including two sisters arrested in June and masterminded major attacks against Shiites in recent years.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao has neither confirmed nor denied the arrest. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media, said Chotto was caught last weekend, and then led security officials to a home in Rawalpindi where a man identified as Rashid, also known as Shahid Satti, was arrested for possible involvement in anti-Shiite attacks.

He said security officials acting on Chotto's information have seized explosives, hand grenades and two special belts which were to be used for suicide attacks in Rawalpindi and the eastern city of Lahore.

Chotto had also prepared "a hit list" of men to be targeted for death, the official said.

Another official, who also didn't want to be named because sensitive nature of his job, said counterterrorism experts were questioning Chotto to glean information about his alleged links with al-Qaida.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in 2001. Chotto began leading the group in 2002 after its chief, Akram Lahori, was arrested, reports the AP.

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