‘Militant hideout’ busted near premier’s residence

The terrorists were planning an attack on Jati Umra, the prime minister’s residence in Raiwind.

Akbar Bajwa July 18, 2014

LAHORE: Security forces killed two militants and overran their hideout located within a few kilometres of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family home in Raiwind on Thursday after a nearly 10-hour long operation. One security official was killed and three others wounded in the assault.

“A police team raided a house... around 2 am on a tip-off about the presence of suspected militants, but they retaliated,” said senior police official Malik Owais. “One terrorist has been killed and another injured in this operation has been arrested. Police have now occupied the compound,” he added.

Later, the law enforcers also arrested the owner of the compound, identified as Dr Manzoor, and took him in for questioning. Dr Manzoor is said to be a farmer and lives in the nearby Karyal village.

According to security forces, the terrorists were planning an attack on Jati Umra, the prime minister’s residence in Raiwind, which is barely two-kilometres away from the ambushed hideout in Arayian village.

Lahore city police chief Zulfiqar Hameed told The Express Tribune that Military Intelligence (MI) had the information of terrorists taking refuge in the compound and had taken two Elite Force teams with them to conduct the raid.

The police said the clash began when terrorists, taking refuge in the house, were alarmed by the noise and started firing at the police and security forces, injuring three officials. Security officials said that reinforcements were called in. Rangers personnel also rushed to the site.

Police and security forces exchanged fire with militants until 5:30 am after which the police, using megaphones, repeatedly warned the terrorists to surrender; but they refused to do so. Police officials said they also fired teargas shells inside the compound after the terrorists ignored their warnings. During the operation, police also urged residents of the area to remain inside their houses. The militants had reportedly planted a bomb in the compound, which forced security forces to retaliate cautiously, a senior police official told The Express Tribune.

The suspected militants – allegedly equipped with heavy weaponry including grenades, rocket launchers and explosive devices – also fired three rockets at the security forces and at least two blasts were heard during the 10-hour operation.

Television footage showed a bullet-ridden compound with a large hole blown into one of its walls being swarmed by police.

Police could not immediately confirm the group to which they belonged.

Analysts believe that militants could have settled in this area to plan a possible reprisal attack.

SP Investigation Sadar Zahid Nawaz said that during the operation, security forces suspected that there were women and children being made hostages in the compound, however, at the end of operation, no captive was discovered.

Later, at around 11:30 am, security forces hurled hand grenades and fired rocket launchers, razing the first floor of the residential compound. Then the elite force commandos entered the building and seized the body of one terrorist while the other injured one was arrested.

The police said the injured terrorist also succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. One of the terrorists was identified as Ehsan Mehboob, a resident of Okara.

On the other hand, the deceased security official was identified as Sabir, an army personnel of the Naik rank belonging to MI.  Zahid Nawaz said the terrorists had built a concrete wall behind the windows and therefore, the teargas shells and bullets fired at the compound were not affecting them. After the terrorists were gunned down, the police also fired at a neighboring house, as during the operation, they suspected that some terrorists had taken refuge there. The police also began a search operation but neighbouring houses were declared clear at around 12:30 pm.

DIG operations Waqas Nazeer set Lahore’s security on high alert while CCPO Hameed said the police will relaunch a campaign in Jati Umra and surrounding areas, asking residents living in the rented houses to verify their identification documents.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2014.

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