ISLAMABAD, April 11 -- Pakistan has ordered a thorough inquiry into the background of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the main suspect in New York's World Trade Center bombing case, officials said Tuesday. The probe follows scores of arrests by Pakistani police after a team of U.S. and Pakistani security agencies seized Yousef from a guesthouse in Islamabad in February this year. Pakistani officials said they wanted to prevent a possible retaliation to Yousef's extradition to the United States by arresting a large number of suspects. But the officials admitted they were unable to prevent the assassination of two U.S. Consulate workers, who were gunned down in Karachi on March 8. 'Now that the initial stage is over, we are sifting through the information we received from the suspects,' said a senior police official. As part of their probe, Pakistani authorities have ordered an inquiry into the affairs of the Pakistan office of a welfare organization, the Mercy International, which, they said, was headed by Zahid Shaikh. According to reports published in several Pakistani newspapers, Shaikh, a Pakistani national, was an uncle of Yousef. A representative at Mercy International's local office was unable to tell United Press International whether or not Shaikh and Yousef were related. The organization's headquarters are in Switzerland, and it has branches in Islamabad and Peshawar, Pakistan. Working in the capital since 1991, Mercy International enjoyed the patronage of several senior Pakistani officials, although it is not yet registered with the Pakistan government.
Pakistani police are also tracing Yousef's links to another charity, Muwafaq Foundation, which has had a working relationship with the Mercy International. Muwafaq Foundation is registered as a non-governmental organization in Jersey, Britain, and its branch office is registered in Pakistan. Police earlier this month detained its chief representative in Pakistan, Amir Mehdi, for his alleged links with Yousef. On April 5 the Foundation's lawyer, Farrukh Karim Qureshi, placed an ad in local papers saying the group was not responsible for Mehdi's personal acts. The same lawyer also represents the Pakistan branch of the Mercy International. Muwafaq Foundation, according to the ad, was donating two hostels to Islamabad's International Islamic University at a cost of $3 million dollars. The university has thousands of students with no direct links to Yousef or other Muslim militants. But some of them are actively involved in Muslim politics and have had battle experience during the Afghan war. Yousef had close ties to some Islamic University students, including Ishtiaq Parker, a South African who later helped Pakistani and U.S. officials catch Yousef in return for a $2 million reward offered by the U.S. government. Officials probing Yousef's roots in Pakistan said they were still trying to establish his nationality. Media reports presented him as a Kuwaiti national but Pakistani Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar later said he was an Iranian from Baluchistan, an area divided between Pakistan and Iran. Officials said if they could establish that Shaikh was Yousef's uncle, it would mean that Yousef was also of Pakistani origin. They said his family settled in Kuwait but could not obtain Kuwaiti nationality because of the Arab state's tough immigration laws. Some officialsare also investigating the possibility that Yousef worked for Pakistani and U.S. security agencies during the Afghan war but later turned against them after developing links with the Islamic militants. 'Now that the initial euphoria is over, we are probing all these theories to come to a definite conclusion,' said one official.