3 families feared to have ‘left for Syria’

The IO said further investigations had revealed that the missing families were related and hailed from Sahiwal


Our Correspondent January 01, 2016
The IO said further investigations had revealed that the missing families were related and hailed from Sahiwal. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD UMAIR/EXPRESS

LAHORE: Women and children from three families missing since a few months have allegedly travelled to Syria and joined the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).

Police began looking into the affair after Township resident Khalid Cheema told police that his wife Bushra Cheema and their four children had been abducted. A similar development transpired in Hanjerwal when one Fatima Bibi alleged that her 14-year-old daughter had been kidnapped by Farhana Hamid. Wahdat Colony resident Imran Khalid, another complainant, informed police that his sister Farhana Hamid and his five children had been kidnapped by unidentified men.

An IO privy to the case told The Express Tribune that Bushra alias Haleema used to deliver sermons at a mosque in Township area. The official said she also used to travel to other cities to sermonise. The IO said Bushra had told Cheema that she would be travelling to Okara to deliver a sermon. He said Cheema had tipped-off police after she had failed to return.

The official said Bushra had later contacted her husband before disappearing again. The IO said police had last traced her location to a place near the Balochistan border. The official said police had ascertained that Bushra had prevailed on and escorted other women to leave for Syria and join the IS with their children.

The IO said further investigations had revealed that the missing families were related and hailed from Sahiwal. He said the families were affiliated with an Ahl-i-Hadith organisation. The official said the families had been undergoing training in Syria from where they had been actively trying to prevail on others to join the IS.

The official said the arrest of eight militants from Daska a week ago had also corroborated the police’s findings. He said the paraphernalia seized from the terrorists and their confessions had lent credence to police’s investigations.

The presence of the IS was first reported in Lahore in November, 2014 after pamphlets, posters and graffiti sympathetic to the movement surfaced across the city. A case was registered in this regard by Nawab Town police. Nonetheless, senior police officials and government functionaries kept on denying any reports of the IS’s presence in the city.

In November, 2015, unidentified motorcyclists had hurled a cracker outside the office of Din News in Gulberg area. The attack had left four people including two policemen injured. The attackers had also left pamphlets sympathetic to the IS before fleeing.

A splinter group of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), that had pledged allegiance to the IS, had claimed responsibility for the attack. Talking to The Express Tribune, CCPO Amin Wains ruled out the IS’s presence in the city. He said police had found no evidence to substantiate the claims. Wains also rejected the possibility of the missing families having gone to Syria. He said police were still looking into the matter. He said police had also been striving to nab those involved in the cracker attack on the media outlet. He said police would share information with newsmen on these accounts as soon as any progress was made.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2016.

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