The military announced on Friday the arrest of several high-profile terrorists in Karachi who were collaborating to free the mastermind of American journalist Daniel Pearl’s murder, among other notorious terrorists from the Hyderabad jail.
The capture of three most-wanted terrorists from different proscribed groups, however, reveals the outfits are now working together to carry out attacks, said the military’s chief spokesperson Lt Gen Asim Bajwa.
The jailbreak plotters were among 97 suspects — some 26 of them carrying head money – the security forces have rounded up since the Karachi operation was launched in September 2013.
While addressing a press conference in Karachi, Lt Gen Bajwa disclosed the arrest of Naeem Bukhari, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Karachi chief; Sabir Khan alias Munna, the deputy chief of LeJ Karachi chapter; and Farooq Bhatti alias Musanna, the deputy of the Afghanistan-based leader of Al-Qaeda’s South Asia wing.
The arrested terrorists were planning to carry out a massive attack on Hyderabad Central Jail to break free, among 100 other high-profile terrorists, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who was imprisoned for his role in kidnapping and beheading Wall Street Journal reporter Pearl in 2002.
“The plan was 90 per cent complete, but our timely action foiled the attempt,” said Lt Gen Bajwa, who heads the military’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) department, without specifying when the plot was disrupted.
Half a dozen suicide bombers were enlisted for the attack in addition to 19 other facilitators. More than 350kg of explosives were seized from a building used as a hideout by the militants.
A video played at the media briefing showed the compound in use of the militants with a huge quantity of explosives, communications equipment, ball bearings, police and military uniforms and rucksacks.
The footage also showed blue plastic drums filled with explosives, washing machines that had been used to transport guns and ammunition, detonating cords and several rifles that were stolen from policemen killed in targeted attacks.
“These terrorists had started a business of plastic drums and used washing machines to transport explosives,” Bajwa explained.
The ISPR director-general said the men were involved in many terror attacks between 2009 and 2015. They were accused of involvement in the deadly assaults on PNS Mehran Base, Karachi airport, Kamra airbase and ISI’s Sukkur office as well as the assassination of SP Chaudhry Aslam.
LeJ’s Naeem, who has a head money of Rs20 million, was said to be the mastermind of the brazen attack on the Karachi airport in 2014. Farooq and Sabir were also on the most-wanted list with head money of Rs15 million and Rs5 million, respectively.
Bajwa said the Karachi operation was yielding positive results. “We have broken the network of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and LeJ who are involved in all major terror incidents in Karachi in collusion with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,” he said, but admitted “we have much more to do”.
Naeem Bukhari, Farooq Bhatti, Sabir Khan. PHOTO: APP
Since the launch of the Karachi operation, Bajwa said there had been a significant respite in kidnappings, murders, snatchings and other crimes. “Terrorism cases have gone down by 70 per cent while cases of extortion have reduced by 80 per cent,” he said.
He added army chief Gen Raheel Sharif had visited Karachi several times to personally oversee the ongoing operation. “Over 12,000 people were arrested in more than 7,000 raids conducted by Rangers, out of which 6,000 people were handed over to police,” he said, calling for speeding up actions under the National Action Plan to reduce terrorism further.
The arrest of LeJ’s Naeem is indeed a significant development. He was arrested in 2003 by Rangers in a raid in Gulistan-e-Jauhar. He managed to get released in 2009 after the police were found to have implicated him in a case of possessing illegal weapons.
Naeem had been on the run since then probably hiding in Waziristan or Afghanistan from where he had been directing his group. He was particularly notorious for attacking personnel of law enforcement agencies, especially Rangers, in Karachi.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2016.