TTP’s ‘biggest’ network busted in Punjab

Intelligence Bureau and provincial counter-terrorism department claim to have foiled terror plot to target PSL matches in Lahore

Islamabad: The Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) have busted “the biggest network” of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in joint operations in Punjab province, officials announced on Friday.

Six TTP militants were arrested by joint operation teams (JOTs) of the CTD and IB in raids carried out across Punjab with most of them arrested from Lahore and Gujranwala.

The network carried out two major suicide attacks aimed at security forces last year, with army personnel targeted on Bedian Road in July and policemen targeted on Ferozepur Road near Arfa Karim Tower in Lahore in April.

Law enforcement agencies termed the arrests a breakthrough in terms of the recent IBOs (Intelligence Based Operations) in which massive human and technical resources were used.

According to media reports in Pakistan, the militants had been sent by the TTP leadership from a madrasa located at Gajju Matta near Ferozepur Road in Lahore to hit the targets.

The TTP leadership from Afghanistan had provided the terrorists in Punjab a huge amount as “token money” to hit the targets and promised the remaining funds after the attacks, according to a report.

“During ongoing investigation, a very important lead was uncovered on 9th March, 2018, wherein it was revealed that the TTP had launched a big network in Punjab to target the PSL [Pakistan Super League] cricket matches on 20 and 21 March in Lahore,” an official was quoted as saying.

Hundreds of intelligence officers of both agencies were deployed all over Punjab to arrest the militants to eliminate any threat to the scheduled cricket matches in Lahore.

In a raid on the outskirts of Lahore, the joint team recovered a suicide jacket and important evidence, including maps of targeted places.

On March 20, the teams conducted a raid in Gujranwala city in which a militant identified as Husnain Muavia killed himself while his two accomplices managed to flee. Muavia was allegedly involved in multiple acts of terrorism, the official added.

Finally, on March 29, the JOTs arrested the six militants from a hideout in a seminary, Ashaab-i-Suffa, at Gajju Matta, Lahore.

The alleged militants included Islamul Haq, Jehangir Shah, Imran alias Iran of Shangla, Swat, Waqarul Amin alias Qari of Haripur, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Aleemur Rehman of Kasur and Mohammad Luqman of Narowal.

An official was further quoted as saying that during interrogation it was revealed that Luqman had sworn to blow himself up at the Gaddafi Stadium to sabotage PSL matches, or as a second option, in Narowal, but his handlers remained on the run and could not activate him at the crucial time.

“It was something new and very surprising because the Jamatul Ahrar (JuA), the other faction of the TTP involved in attacks in Lahore in 2014 to 2016, had not been able to find any local facilitators during three years,” the official said.

The analysis of the evidence collected further revealed that the TTP had got support of local elements too.

During interrogation, he said, the militants made many stunning revelations, saying the TTP men in the network had allegedly killed Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Brigadier Zahoor Fazal Qadri and his brother, in Sargodha in 2004. Similarly, they had also killed Dr Siftullah in Dera Ismail Khan.

The CTD officials also recovered a long list of targets that the TTP aimed to hit across Punjab with maps of the locations, besides some political personalities, officers and offices of the law enforcement agencies, Imam barghas and worship places of minorities.

The joint teams of the CTD and IB are collecting intelligence and conducting raids all over Punjab to arrest the remaining militants of the network.

On March 29, Pakistan Foreign Office (FO) handed over a dossier containing evidence of anti-Pakistan activities being carried out from Afghanistan. The FO statement said the document comprised of evidence of Afghanistan-based TTP involvement in the Swat suicide attack on the military as well as the details on the hideouts of the TTP, JuA and other militant groups in Afghan territory.

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