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Pakistan Releases Nuke Scientists

Two nuclear scientists who had been detained on suspicion of sharing technical information with Osama bin Laden have been freed, government officials and relatives said Saturday.

Sultan Bashir-ud-Din Mehmood and Abdul Majid worked for Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission until retiring in 1999. They then managed a charity organization, Tameer-e-Ummah, or “Nation Builder,” and made several trips to Afghanistan, where they met bin Laden.

Both denied transferring any nuclear-related information to Afghanistan and said they only ran education programs and helped poor Afghan farmers. Mehmood claimed he talked with bin Laden about plans for the rehabilitation of Afghanistan.

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Mehmood, who helped Pakistan become nuclear power in 1998, was picked up on Oct. 23 and was held for weeks until he was released after suffering a mild heart attack during interrogation. After a few days, he was taken to a safe house of Pakistan's main spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.

Majid was taken into custody after Mehmood's arrest, and six members of their non-governmental organization also were detained.

Authorities said Mehmood and Majid defied service rules that apply to government scientists even after retirement, and of violating travel restrictions. They have been barred from talking with reporters or making public speeches.

“My father, with all six detained members of his NGO, has been released,” Dr. Mohammad Asim, Mehmood's son, told The Associated Press.

An Interior Ministry official on Saturday also confirmed the releases.

Click Here for Complete CoveragePakistan was the closest ally of Afghanistan's now-vanquished Taliban militia until the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which bin Laden allegedly orchestrated.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf then joined the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism and changed the leadership of the spy agency, which had been close to the Taliban.

However, the ranks of the ISI and other Pakistani agencies are believed to be filled with Taliban and bin Laden supporters. That has led to increased concern in the United States about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and the possibility that al-Qaida could have obtained expertise or nuclear materials from the Pakistanis.

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