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Pakistan Detains Pro-Taleban Nuclear Scientist - 2001-10-25


Authorities in Pakistan have detained a prominent nuclear scientist who has been a public supporter of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban.

Pakistani officials say Sultan Bashiru-Din Mehmood was placed in protective custody on Tuesday. The scientist was a project director for Pakistan's nuclear program in the run-up to the nation's first nuclear tests in May 1998.

Since retiring, Mr. Mehmood has worked on relief projects in neighboring Afghanistan. According to the Associated Press, he called last week for a three-month cease-fire in Afghanistan to resolve the dispute between the United States and the Taleban.

The French Press Agency quotes a Pakistani spokesman who says authorities are investigating the contacts between Taleban officials and Mr. Mehmood's relief agency. The spokesman says authorities do not have concerns that the scientist may have handed over government nuclear secrets.

Earlier this week, Pakistani President Pervez Musharaff said great care has been taken to make certain the country's nuclear assets do not fall into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.

Western government officials have warned that Osama bin Laden -- who remains in Afghanistan as the Taleban's guest -- is capable of further terrorist strikes. The alleged terrorist leader remains the United States' prime suspect in the deadly September 11th attacks in New York and Washington.

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