ISLAMABAD: A day after the launch of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, Pakistani security forces killed two high-profile terrorists – including the mastermind of the February 13 suicide bombing on Lahore’s Mall Road that claimed 16 lives.
Wajihullah, alias Ahrar, and Hikmat, alias Qari Zubair, belonging to the outlawed Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) faction of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were killed on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to security sources.
It wasn’t immediately known how and where exactly the two terrorists were eliminated.
Wajihullah, who was sponsored by a hostile intelligence agency, had masterminded the suicide attack outside the Punjab Assembly, in which DIG Capt (retd) Ahmad Mobin and SSP Zahid Gondal were also killed. The JuA had claimed credit for the bombing.
Hikmat, the in charge of a terrorist transit camp in Afghanistan, also coordinated with a hostile intelligence agency, security sources said.
Earlier in the day, security agencies conducted a targeted raid against the Wahab Zakhbail-led network of TTP and JuA in the Killi Shah Karaiz area near Loralai district of Balochistan. The raid was part of the countrywide operation, codenamed Radd-ul-Fasaad, launched a day earlier against the remnants of terrorists.
According to the military’s media wing, the raid was conducted jointly by the Frontier Corps and intelligence agencies. Twenty-three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were recovered during the raid, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
Reportedly, the IEDs had been transported to the area by TTP elements to target vehicles of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and Loralai University buses carrying students. “Timely action of the LEAs averted a major terrorist incident,” the ISPR said.
Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was launched by the Pakistan Army on Wednesday after a string of terrorist attacks left over 100 people dead across the country. Unlike the previous campaigns, this offensive would be focused on Punjab, which has long been ignored in the counterterrorism fight due to political expediency and other reasons.
The federal government has already approved a Punjab government request seeking deployment of over 2,000 rangers in the province to carry out targeted operations against militant groups. The operation in the country’s urban centres is considered crucial for taking the fight against militancy to a logical conclusion.
Separately, a huge cache of arms was recovered during a raid in the Khyber tribal region. “Security forces recovered a huge cache of arms and ammunition, including hand grenades, landmines and rockets from the Baggan area of Thal in Khyber Agency,” sources said.
Elsewhere, the Rangers carried out their first combing operation in different parts of Rawalpindi on Thursday and detained 40 suspects.
Paramilitary troops, aided by police, blocked all roads leading to the thickly populated areas of Dhoke Hassu, Dhoke Matkial, Dhoke Ratta Amral, Gali Loharan, and IJP Road before starting a house-to-house search around 7.00 am.
It was the first operation by the Rangers after the paramilitary force had been given policing powers in Punjab under Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad.
The areas where the operation took place have a predominantly Pashtun, Hazarawala and Kashmiri population. The law enforcers detained as many as 40 suspects – including 13 Afghan nationals – who were later shifted to relevant police stations for questioning. Six AK-47 assault rifles, seven pistols, and 300 live bullets were also recovered from the suspects.