KARACHI: Police and other law enforcement personnel on Friday arrested five suspects, belonging to banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), from Karachi, Hub and Quetta over the terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November last year.
Additional Inspector General of Police (AIG) Dr Amir Shaikh told reporters that the mastermind of the consulate attack was BLA commander Aslam alias Achu. The attack was planned in Afghanistan and carried out with the assistance of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), he added.
"The weapons used in the attack were brought from Quetta to the Cantt Station, Karachi, by train," AIG Shaikh, said. "The trained terrorists had been observing the consulate for four months before the attack," he added.
On November 23 last year, three militants attempted to enter the Chinese consulate in Karachi's Clifton area but were shot dead in an encounter with the law enforcement personnel. The gun-and-grenade assault resulted in the martyrdom of two policemen and two visa applicants. The attack was claimed by the BLA.
Based on police investigation, Dr Shaikh said, the attack was aimed at sabotaging the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and meant to create discord between Pakistan and China. "They wanted China to believe that Karachi is not safe," he added.
"The attack was planned in Afghanistan. There have been reports that the mastermind, Aslam alias Achu, was killed in Kandahar, but we cannot believe it unless we see the body or other evidence," he said, adding that Achu's relatives were among the attackers, who were led by Bashir Zeb.
Sharing details of the investigation, Shaikh said that multiple raids were conducted in various parts of Balochistan and Sindh. "Five facilitators were arrested from Karachi, Hub and Quetta, while several other suspects were set free after interrogation," he said.
"Police and the other law enforcement agencies have made an important breakthrough. In a joint raid in Karachi's Taiser Town, five people belonging to the outlawed BLA were arrested. Three Kalashnikovs, three hand-grenades, two TT pistols, two rocket shells, and huge quantity of explosives were recovered."
About the vehicle used in the attack, he said that it had been sold several times in the past six years. "Police traced down its original owner but he had passed away. Since the owner had sold the vehicle and was unaware of the plot, his name is not being revealed."
He said that the terrorists had been observing the consulate, particularly its visa section for almost four months. The terrorists used fake computerised national identity cards, he said. "They used to sit in the visa section of the consulate to observe when the gates opened and other details," he added.
"We are writing to the FIA [Federal Investigation Agency] and the [Pakistan] Railways to upgrade their security mechanism so that the facilities of the railways and Nadra [National Database and Registration Authority] are not exploited by terrorists."
The Karachi police chief also shared several photographs at the media briefing. According to Dr Shaikh, these photographs recovered from the cell phones of the terrorists. One of them was a cousin of Aslam alias Achu, the other was the brother-in-law of another high-profile terrorist, who is considered to be the second-in-command to Achu.
Responding to a question, Dr Shaikh said the attackers had no connection, whatsoever, with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)-London. To another question, he admitted that the police had no prior information about the attack.
"Everybody thought that the BLA could not do anything. But contrary to that the BLA did everything. The consulate attack took place at a time when different international events were underway in the city," AIG Shaikh told reporters.
On the occasion, Dr Shaikh said that police were investigating the murder of MQM leader Ali Raza Abidi from two angles. "It will be premature to say anything at this stage," he said. He added that police will inform the media in a day or two about investigation into last year's Quaidabad blast in the city that claimed two lives.