Security forces have arrested a commander of the ultraorthodox Islamic State (IS) group as well as two accomplices involved in recruiting and sending fighters to Syria. IS has set up a self-proclaimed caliphate on large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq after making stunning military victories against government forces in the two countries.
“Yousaf alSalafi and his two accomplices were arrested by intelligence agencies and Punjab police in a joint raid in the Shahdara neighbourhood of Lahore,” an official told The Express Tribune on Wednesday. “IS’s hate literature was also recovered during the raid,” he added.
Yousaf alSalafi, a Pakistani Syrian, confessed in subsequent interrogation that he represented IS in Pakistan. One of his associates, Hafiz Tayyab, was a prayer leader at a local mosque in Lahore and was recruiting fighters for Syria.
AlSalafi was detained after crossing over into Turkey from Syria. Somehow he managed to escape and travelled to Pakistan five months later to establish a foothold for the group here, a senior police official said.
Pakistani officials are concerned about the rise of IS, also known by its Arabic name Da’ish, in a country already beset by a home-grown Taliban insurgency. Graffiti in favour of IS has emerged in several cities, from Karachi, in the south, to Peshawar, in the north.
After the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan developed fissures, key commanders, including their former spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid, pledged allegiance to IS. Earlier this week, 50 militants from a Tirah Valley-based self-styled extremist vigilante group, Amar Bil Maroof, also joined IS.
Security analysts, however, say there is no evidence to suggest that IS and Taliban militants maintain effective links or that the ultraorthodox group has operational capability in the region.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2015.