Musharraf Appeals To Stop Terror

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf appealed to Pakistanis Thursday to fight extremists at home, while officials said they were seeking the former aide of a radical cleric in Britain in connection with the July 7 London bombings.

In a nationally televised address, Musharraf admitted that Pakistan had a "problem" with militants, amid international concern that Islamic schools in his country are promoting extremism. But he said Pakistan should not be labeled as lax in the war on terror simply because three suspected suicide bombers were of Pakistani origin, and had visited Pakistan in 2004.

"We certainly have a problem here which we are trying to address. England has a problem also," Musharraf said, citing Hizbul Tahreer and Al-Muhajaroon, two Britain-based extremist groups that are banned in Pakistan.

"There is a lot to be done by Pakistan, internally here in Pakistan," said Musharraf, who strongly condemned the July 7 attacks that killed 56 people, including the four bombers, and wounded 700 others. "May I suggest there is a lot to be done in England also."

"The correct strategy to deal with this is to encourage and support each other rather speaking against each other and weakening the overall cause," he said.

The president's hour-long, evening address was taped before four explosions shook London's capital once again on Thursday. Bombs exploded in three underground subway stations and on a bus in the British capital, reportedly injuring one person.

"Please rise and wage jihad against extremism," Musharraf said, invoking the term for holy war that is often used by militants. He made similar pledges after al Qaeda's attacks in the United States in 2001, and despite hundreds of arrests since then, analysts believe Pakistan is concerned that heavy-handed tactics could alienate many in this Muslim nation.

As Musharraf urged the public to reject extremism, Pakistani intelligence officials were responding to a request by British authorities to track down Haroon Rashid Aswat, who reportedly had been in close contact with the suicide bombers.

Aswat, 31, was of Indian origin and may not be in Pakistan, according to two intelligence officials in Islamabad and one in Lahore, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media and because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Two British newspapers — The Times of London and The Guardian — had reported Aswat had been arrested. The New York Times, citing unidentified intelligence and law enforcement officials, reported that police have begun a worldwide hunt for Aswat.

"We have no information about Haroon Rashid Aswat. He has not been arrested in Pakistan," Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Quoting unidentified intelligence sources, The Times of London said Aswat visited the hometowns of all four London bombers and selected their targets. It also reported there had been up to 20 phone calls between Aswat and two of the bombers in the days before the attacks.

Aswat reportedly was once an associate of Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical imam who is awaiting trial in Britain on charges of incitement to murder. Al-Masri also is wanted in the United States on charges of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Oregon, involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen and funding terror training in Afghanistan.

Aswat's relatives in Batley, near the northern English town of Leeds, which was home to two of the suicide bombers, issued a statement saying they had not heard from him for many years.

"He has not lived at this house and we have not had contact with him for many years," said his father Rashid, who asked for his family to be left in peace. "There is no story that we can provide."

Also Thursday, Britain's ambassador said there have been no arrests in Pakistan related to the London bombings, contradicting reports in recent days by Pakistani authorities that some suspects in the attacks were in detention.

"Let me take this opportunity to clarify that there have not been any arrests in Pakistan since seven July related to the London bombings," High Commissioner Mark Lyall Grant said at a memorial ceremony for the victims of the attacks.

His comment at the headquarters of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party came amid a nationwide crackdown on suspected militants that has led to more than 200 arrests.

Authorities are investigating whether the London bombing suspects received training or other assistance from militants in the country.

One bombers, Shahzad Tanweer, 22, is suspected of visiting a madrassa linked with militants in Lahore, Pakistan.

According to a report in a Pakistani newspaper, Tanweer revered Osama bin Laden. The English-language Dawn newspaper said Tanweer visited family members in November in Chak 477-GB, a farming village near Faisalabad, in eastern Pakistan. During his three- to four-week stay, he was visited by another suicide bombing suspect, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, Tanweer's uncle told the newspaper.

"Osama bin Laden was Shahzad's ideal and he used to discuss the man with his cousins and friends in the village," Dawn quoted the uncle, Tahir Pervaiz, as saying.