September 17, 2015 / 10:50 AM / 2 years ago

Pakistani police accuse businessman of helping al Qaeda

KARACHI (Reuters) - Pakistani police have arrested a businessman who donated funds to the Taliban and al Qaeda, police told Reuters on Wednesday, in a rare case targeting those who financially contribute to militancy.

The suspect, Syed Sheaba Ahmed, was detained in the southern city of Karachi, police said although they did not say when. He paid for the treatment of wounded Taliban militants at a hospital in the city of Lahore, police said.

He also influenced two militants involved in an attack on a busload of minority Shi‘ite Ismaili Muslims in May that killed 45 people, senior police officer Naveed Khawaja from the provincial Counter Terrorism Department told reporters.

He will be charged with terror financing, said Khawaja.

“Ahmed has also been financing Afghan Taliban, we are still in the process of ascertaining if he has been providing financing through his businesses or someone else is behind him,” the officer said.

“Ahmed was also providing financial assistance to AQIS,” Khawaja said, referring to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, a branch of al Qaeda that was founded a year ago.

The arrest is a rare success for Pakistan’s police force, struggling with militancy and corruption as well as crime.

After Taliban gunmen massacred about 150 people, most of them children, at an army-run school in December, the government vowed to crack down on militancy. Attacks have fallen sharply as the military has also pushed further into the lawless regions bordering Afghanistan.

But militant groups remain a threat, and many have followers in Pakistan’s cities, which fall under the control of the chronically under-trained and under-funded police force.

Ahmed, 52, used to give sermons at a mosque in Karachi’s upscale Defense Housing Authority neighborhood. His public sermons were moderate, but privately he encouraged radicalism, police said.

Police initially said Ahmed had been an air force pilot, but a spokesman for the air force later said although Ahmed had studied at the Pakistan Air Force College in Sargodha city in the 1980s, he was expelled for disciplinary problems and never graduated.

He later went into the paint and chemicals business.

(This version corrects to clarify man was expelled from air force college, did not become pilot)

Editing by Katharine Houreld/Ruth Pitchford

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