Pakistan official: Caterer, others held for ties to Times Square bomb plot

Pakistan official: Caterer, others held for ties to Times Square bomb plot
# 22 May 2010 02:02 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Pakistani authorities have detained the co-owner of an upscale catering company in the capital and at least four other men in connection with the Times Square bomb plot, a Pakistani intelligence official said Friday, APA reports quoting “The Washington Post”.
The U.S. Embassy issued a warning to Americans in Pakistan about Hanif Rajput Catering Service, saying that "terrorist groups may have established links" to it. The unusual alert said the company was owned by a father and son, but it did not elaborate on its alleged ties to militants.
A Pakistani intelligence source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the son, Salman Ashraf Khan, 35, was arrested about 10 days ago on suspicion of links to Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American accused of the attempted bombing in New York. Four or five other people were also arrested in Islamabad, including at least one who was a close friend of Khan, the official said.
Hanif Rajput has catered elite events in the capital, including U.S. Embassy functions.
Reached briefly by telephone early Saturday, Rana Ashraf Khan, Khan’s father, said his son went missing on the morning of May 10 after leaving his home for work. Rana Ashraf Khan said that he had heard nothing from his son since and that authorities had given him no information.
"My son loves his religion, but he has nothing to do with terrorism," he said. "Salman is not an extremist, but a normal person."
According to the caterer’s Web site, Khan completed studies in Houston in 2001, then worked his way up in the family business to become vice president. It said he had "breathed new fire" into the firm’s outdoor catering services.
Among the others arrested were an employee of Telenor, a cellphone company, and a man who is involved in a computer business in Islamabad, the intelligence official said.
The U.S. warning said American government personnel had been instructed to avoid patronizing the caterer. U.S. officials had relayed information about the caterer’s suspected terrorism links to Pakistani authorities "for their action," the alert said.
U.S. officials have said the failed Times Square bombing was supported by the Pakistani Taliban, an amorphous militant group based in Pakistan’s lawless frontier areas. Shahzad has told U.S. investigators that he received bombmaking training in the rugged region.
National security adviser James L. Jones and CIA chief Leon Panetta visited Islamabad this week to discuss the case with Pakistani authorities.
Pakistani media have reported several detentions in connection with the case, but the government has not officially acknowledged any arrests, and authorities say they are still investigating Shahzad’s links to Pakistan-based terrorist groups.
In a statement issued Friday, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the "soil of Pakistan" would not be used "for acts of terrorism anywhere in the world."