LeJ militants involved in Karachi airport attack aided prisoners’ escape

Published: July 2, 2017
Main gate of Karachi Central Jail. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SAQIB/EXPRESS

Main gate of Karachi Central Jail. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD SAQIB/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The Naeem Bukhari group of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) was involved in the recent jailbreak at Central Jail, Karachi. The militants arrested in the Karachi airport attack helped two under trial LeJ prisoners escape the prison, The Express Tribune learnt on Saturday.

The two hardcore militants of the banned religious outfit – Shaikh Muhammad Mumtaz alias Firon and Muhammad Ahmed Khan alias Muna were jailed over the killings of law enforcers, Shia community members and Muttahida Qaumi Movement workers in 2013. They escaped from the jail late on June 13. Following their escape, a dozen jail officials, including Prison’s Superintendent Ghulam Murtaza Shaikh, deputy superintendent Fahim Memon, assistant superintendent Abdul Rehman Shaikh were suspended and later arrested for negligence.

“Militants from the Naeem Bukhari group helped them flee the jail,” revealed Counter-Terrorism Department’s senior anti-terror officer Raja Omar Khattab while talking to The Express Tribune. “LeJ men from inside and outside the jail, particularly those arrested in the Karachi airport attack and currently imprisoned at the central jail, played a vital role in their escape,” he explained.

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In October, 2014, the CTD arrested four men for planning and financing the deadly attack on Jinnah International Airport in June that left 38 dead. Responsibility for the brazen attack on the Pakistan’s busiest airport was claimed by the Pakistan Taliban and lead to the collapse of peace talks with the government and the launch of the military offensive against militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal agency. Nadeem alias Burger and Sarmad Siddiqui were among those arrested for the attack.

“So far we have found evidence of the involvement of senior LeJ militants including Akram Lahori, Hafiz Qasim Rasheed, Durki Shah and the airport facilitators – Sarmad Siddiqui and Nadeem Burger,” explained Khattab. “These militants helped them from inside the jail while outsiders, particularly the brothers of Nadeem Burger and Shaikh Mumtaz – Iqbal Patel and Moin respectively – were also involved in the plan and jailbreak and obviously provided transport and the hideout,” he said.

The officer said that the question remains why only these two militants were extracted from the jail. “More militants could have escaped with them. Why were only these two selected for the escape? And what are they planning for the future?” pondered the officer.

Escaped LeJ militants walked out of central jail

“It seems that they would still be in Karachi, as we believe they will attempt to leave the city once they believe they are secure. They definitely have a plan to carry out terrorist activities,” said Khattab.

The investigators are investigating the case phase-wise. They are currently questioning and interrogating the jail officials and personnel and will obtain custody of the other prisoners to interrogate them in the next phase.

“All the jail officials and personnel from top to bottom were responsible. So far their negligence has been found but we are trying to ascertain if it was only negligence or whether they were also involved in the inmates’ escape,” explained a senior official privy to the matter. “The main [official being held] responsible is head clerk Channa, who is known as the tower incharge and is responsible for each and everything in the jail and allowed Shaikh Mumtaz to violate the jail manual.”

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