ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistani police have foiled a major terror plot, seizing three explosives-packed vehicles and arresting six people including three would-be suicide bombers near Islamabad, officials said Friday.
The discovery of the massive bombs in the army headquarters city of Rawalpindi, which adjoins the capital, comes just days after a deadly suicide car bomb attack outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad.
Security forces placed the two cities on red alert following the discovery of the explosives, which amounted to nearly 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) in total between the three cars.
Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik was quoted by local television stations as saying six "terrorists" including three suicide bombers had been arrested and three explosives-laden vehicles were seized.
The bombers "wanted to target installations of national importance," he told ARY One television.
"It was a major terrorist plot aimed at causing death and destruction in the twin cities," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Security agencies got a tip-off that some explosives-laden vehicles would enter the twin cities and police tightened security on the road and launched checking of vehicles," the security official told AFP.
"On Thursday they impounded three vehicles each fitted with 100 to 150 kilograms of explosives... The vehicles were meant to cause terrorist attacks in the twin cities," he said.
The official said only four people had been rounded up.
Al-Qaeda claimed in purported Internet statements Wednesday to have carried out the attack on the Danish mission in revenge for the publication in Danish newspapers of cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
Six people were killed, including a Danish national and two local employees at the embassy, and nearly 30 were wounded in the bombing.
The discovery of the bombs will raise fresh concerns at home and abroad over the new Pakistani government's efforts to negotiate with Taliban militants allegedly backed by Al-Qaeda in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.
The peace talks have led to a lull in suicide attacks in the country following a wave of such attacks during the previous year which claimed more than 1,000 lives.
The new government says it is steering away from the policies of US-backed President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the "war on terror" whose political backers lost elections in February.
But US and NATO officials with troops in Afghanistan and the government in Kabul have all warned against any attempt to negotiate with extremists, warning that it will give them space to regroup.
European Union anti-terror coordinator Gilles de Kerchove urged member nations on Thursday to help Pakistan's new government combat terrorism, and in particular Al-Qaeda, more effectively.
"It's a tremendous challenge," he told reporters after briefing the EU's 27 interior ministers in Luxembourg. "We have to help this government act quickly to help lower the pressure" militants are putting on it.