LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has claimed to have killed 10 suspected Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) terrorists, including Anwarul Haq – the alleged handler of the bomber who carried out the February 16 suicide attack at Lahore’s Mall Road – who was already in the police’s custody.
The department’s spokesperson said a CTD Lahore team was transporting five accused terrorists, including Haq, to Manawan for recovery of weapons and explosives when their convoy was attacked near Ring Road at 1:15 am on Saturday.
“Eight to nine terrorists attacked the police team and managed to liberate the detained suspects including Haq. They later fled towards River Ravi in limits of Police Station Manawan.”
He said the CTD team later called for backup and followed the terrorists. At about 1:45 am, the CTD officials intercepted them and ordered them to surrender.
“Instead of complying with the order, the terrorists started indiscriminate firing. The CTD teams retaliated and in the ensuing firefight 10 terrorists were killed apparently by firing of the fleeing accomplices,” he said, adding that officials of CTD ‘miraculously’ remained unhurt.
“Five of the terrorists were later identified as Anwarul Haq, Abdullah, Attaur Rehman, Imam Shah and Irfan Khan. The rest of the suspects have yet to be identified,” the spokesperson said.
He said the CTD teams also recovered weapons and ammunition from the militants. Recovered items included 2kg of explosives, primer cord, three Kalashnikovs, three pistols, ammunition and three motorcycles.
“A case has been registered with regard to the encounter at the CTD Police Station under terrorism and other charges. The police are investigating the matter further and searching for other suspects,” he said.
Anwarul Haq, the accused handler of February 16 Mall Road Blast, was arrested by the CTD a day after the blast. Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif had disclosed his arrest during a press conference and had claimed that he was the sole handler and facilitator of Mall Road Blast.
Defence and counter-terrorism experts regard these claims of encounters highly ‘suspicious’ and say a reactive approach is not a long-term solution. Defence analyst Imtiaz Gul said such ‘extrajudicial killings’ right after occurring of a terror incidents are meant to neutralise criticism.
“These were ‘extra-judicial killings’ and were a short term solution of problems. Long term solutions demanded that the LEAs take effective measures before happening of an incident. These measures include operations against terrorism and effective surveillance,” he said.
Meanwhile, the JuA owned Anwarul Haq as member, describing him as a ‘would-be suicide bomber’.
[WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FRON OUR CORRESPONDENT IN ISLAMABAD]