KARACHI: Security forces are hunting militants belonging to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) for their involvement in the deadly attack on the main operational headquarters of the Sindh Police’s Crime Investigation Department (CID).
Although top officials solving the case were keeping all cards close to their chest, trying their best to hide any clues that they may have found, background interviews reveal that daunting challenges lie ahead for the security forces.
At least four units are leading the investigations, including two teams of the CID, the capital city police’s Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and the Federal Investigation Agency’s Special Investigation Group. Intelligence agencies are assisting.
Even while Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik appeared cocksure about the involvement of the LeJ, one of the four CID Senior Superintendents of Police disagreed with the conclusion and said he would keep all options open. He said that he was betting his ‘smart money’ on the TTP for being solely responsible for the deadly attack.
Also, the LeJ and TTP are not the only militant groups that are known to have a history of attacking state targets such as the police. Karachi-based Jundullah, which remains to date active in the city under a new leadership, could also have staged the attack. But, one investigator pointed out that ever since the two top tiers of Jundullah have been put behind bars, it has remained under the radar.
DSP Usman Asghar was surveying the blast site on Friday afternoon along with two other officers in civvies. “That used to be my office,” he said, pointing towards a pile of rubble right in front of the huge crater. Asghar, who had been working with CID for the last eight years, was posted to the SIU just a day before the attack.
This officer is known for catching the notorious Harkatul Mujahideen al Almi militant Kamran Atif in 2007 – the man who made an assassination attempt on president Musharraf in 2007. According to Asghar, his unit had found clues in the current case and was chasing some leads. “The challenge is to trace and catch the local handlers of the group that claims to have carried out the attack,” he said, referring to the TTP.
One possibility being closely examined is the link of the CID’s arrest of six LeJ militants and one TTP militant made a day before the attack. SI Ali Shah [not his real name] said that the LeJ militants were produced before the sessions court earlier in the day. “Even though we are told to keep a close watch when we take militants to court, an unidentified man managed to speak with them there,” Shah said, adding that the militants were taken to CID centre late in the afternoon.
The LeJ militants had been threatening them with dire consequences from the day they were apprehended, said Shah, who belongs to the CID squad’s commando unit. “You either kill us or let us go” was their demand.
However, an hour before the attack, the LeJ militants were moved to SSP Chaudhry Aslam’s unit in Saddar’s Garden area. A senior police officer close to Aslam did not confirm or deny this. He said that “the attack had nothing to do with LeJ militants. This was an attack on the CID because the CID has been active against extremists.”
Meanwhile, the FIA’s forensics unit led by SIG Sindh’s chief Azad Khan carried on with their crime scene analysis. Each member of the 10-man team collected metal fragments and residue swabs on cotton balls from the site, the spread of which, according to Khan, is more than 600 meters.
“The biggest problem I’m facing is that the crime has been compromised because so many people and even bulldozers have been over important pieces of evidence,” Khan said, adding that it could take several days before his team can complete the survey.
The samples collected from the site were being to sent to a forensics lab in Islamabad from where they’ll be able to determine the type of explosives used. “This will also help identify the possible groups behind the attack as different militant groups have different blast signatures,” he said.
His team is also trying to determine the sequence of events. When asked why since CCTV cameras were supposedly in place at the facility, he did not respond directly and said, “if it was available we wouldn’t have done it.” The CCTV footage at the station was reportedly not functioning when the attack took place and the only ones available are those that were at the corner of the streets on other nearby buildings.
IG Sindh Babar Khattak also visited the site and said that according to experts, the weight of the explosives was 500kgs.
Body parts continued to be discovered from the crime scene. Pieces of an unknown person’s head were discovered on top of the State Life building nearby. Khattak said the DNA sampling would be done to determine whether it belonged to the bomber or one of the personnel.
The CDGK’s Urban Search and Rescue Team pulled out two bodies late Thursday night. They used four dogs in the operation, whose names are Charlie, Senator, Saaghir and Queen. The dogs were provided by a Pakistan Army unit in Rawalpindi, said Naeem Yusuf, the search team’s leader.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2010.