May 26 - June 1, 2003 Myanmar's first international weekly Volume 9, No.167
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Government to probe al-Qaeda report
By: Thet Khaing
(Myanmar Times)

THE government says it will investigate a British newspaper report that a Myanmar arrested in Pakistan earlier this month was suspected of being linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

A government statement said the report appeared in the May 17 edition of the Financial Times, which quoted a Pakistani official as saying the arrest could provide “a new opening” on al-Qaeda’s connections to Myanmar.

The statement did not indicate whether the Financial Times had identified the man, who was arrested in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

“The government of Myanmar will investigate this allegation with utmost urgency once it has the opportunity to review the information and materials obtained by the Pakistani authorities,” a government spokesperson, Colonel Hla Min, was quoted as saying in the statement.

He said the government has been sharing information with the United States and countries in the region about terrorists operating along Myanmar’s western border.

“The Government of Myanmar has relentlessly committed to fight against all forms of terrorism and to work with the Association of South East Asian Nations and the US in its effort of cooperation,” Col Hla Min said in the statement.

He said some members of the Rohinga Muslim separatist group in Rakhine State have been linked to both al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan for five years until being ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Col Hla Min said many Rohinga members had given up their terrorist activities and were cooperating with the government in maintaining the national unity “as well as stability of the region”.

“However, we shall remain ever vigilant not only in safeguarding Myanmar but the region as well, from the threat of any forms of terrorism,” Col Hla Min said.

An official at the Pakistan embassy in Yangon told Myanmar Times last Wednesday it expected to receive official information about the arrest by early this week and it would be provided to the government, if requested.

Al-Qaeda gained notoriety for the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and has also been blamed for other acts of terror, including recent bombings of foreign residential compounds in Saudi Arabia.