JHELUM: At least four intelligence officials were killed in a covert raid on a militant hideout in the garrison city of Jhelum on Saturday, officials and sources said.
The incident took place in the hilly area near Pind Dadan Khan, which is located on the confluence of the border between Jhelum and Chakwal districts.
Sources told The Express Tribune that army troops mounted a secret undercover operation after they were tipped off about the presence of suspected terrorists in the Pir Chunbbal shrine on a hilltop.
It was a Military Intelligence-led operation in which four officials were killed, military sources said, identifying three of them as Major Afaq, Hawaldar Nazir Abbas and Naik Fiyyaz. They belonged to MI Punjab 204 Rawalpindi detachment of Jhelum and Chakwal.
One of their civil informants was also killed in the incident. Sources said that four terrorists were also killed in the raid. But it wasn’t confirmed officially.
Foreign media gave a different account. Quoting security officials, the BBC reported that the four intelligence officials were kidnapped by terrorists a few days back. And the kidnappers were demanding the release of their 20 comrades who were arrested during operations in the tribal regions.
Sources said that the MI had kept the undercover operation secret and not even the police were taken into confidence. But the BBC report said that the action was conducted in coordination with the police.
Sources said that police had alerted the militants about an earlier swoop, indicating that extremist groups have infiltrated the police force. Following that incident, the Punjab police chief had suspended a senior police official.
A group of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, led by Dr Arshad, had set up hideouts in the hilly areas near Khewra and Pir Chunbbal regions. These heavily armed militants had started kidnapping affluent people for ransom. Dr Arshad is wanted by the police in at least 10 cases of terrorism. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the BBC that action was taken because militants have set up hideouts in these areas. He did not give details.
Sources said that MI officials mounted the undercover raid impersonating devotees at the Pir Chambal shrine. However, the suspicious militants searched them and found army identity cards. The militants killed the intelligence officials and fled the area unchallenged, according to sources.
Following the killing, Army helicopters launched a search operation. The army has thrown a security cordon around the area and, according to sources, a major search operation is expected today (Sunday). However, sources said that the militants were seen escaping from the area using the Rawalpindi-Lahore Motorway.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 13th, 2011.