NEWS

Nicosia deports 10 Pakistanis

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus deported 10 Pakistanis described as terrorist suspects yesterday, including an expert in surface-to-air missiles. «I can’t tell you whether they are members of Al-Qaeda, we are not sure of that, but it is certain that they fit the profile of terror suspects,» a senior Cypriot security source told Reuters. The men, who were enrolled at a private Cypriot college in the holiday resort of Larnaca, were arrested on Wednesday. The security source questioned whether the deported men were genuine students, saying one of them was a 39-year-old engineer. «He trained on avionic engineering and on Mirage and F16 military aircraft. He had a diploma in assembling SAMs (surface-to-air missiles)… yet he came to Cyprus to study hotel management,» the source said. The man frequently changed address and appeared to have some authority over the others. «The rest appeared to be associates, he wielded some influence over them,» the source said. Interior Minister Andreas Christou and the government spokesman declined to give details. «I can confirm that instructions were given for their arrest for security reasons, nothing more,» Christou told Reuters. The security source said the missile expert had been briefly detained by police for questioning a month ago after a tip-off from foreign intelligence services. «We released him then because we needed to be absolutely sure that he was suspect,» the source said. Asked why the men had not been brought before a local court, the source said Pakistan’s branch of Interpol had been alerted. [Last month, Cyprus’s chief of police confirmed a newspaper article claiming that a 45-year-old Pakistani «Al-Qaeda suspect» was arrested and deported to an unspecified destination].