ISLAMABAD, Feb 7: The country’s top security agencies, investigating into Tuesday’s armed attack at the Islamabad airport believe it was directly linked to some of the recent suicide attacks in the capital and in the North-West Frontier Province.
Preliminary investigations and interrogation of one of the persons arrested on Tuesday from the airport has led to detention of four more militant suspects from the NWFP. They have been brought to Rawalpindi for further questioning. A top security official said that based on intelligence collected so far, the government had been warned of the possibility of more such attacks by religious militants, possibly linked to the local Taliban based in the Waziristan region.
The exact identity of the person involved in the airport attack was yet to be established, but investigators said some clues suggested that he might have been from the Punjab.
The investigation team has also obtained video clips of the armed attack captured by close circuit cameras of the airport and it is believed that they would help trace the identity of the terrorist.
Senior officials told Dawn that the government had received high security threats in Islamabad after which security had been beefed up in and around all important buildings, including Parliament House, Presidency, Prime Minister House and federal ministries, a senior security official told Dawn on Wednesday.
The way the latest attack at the Islamabad airport was foiled proves that the security agencies were doing a good job in preventing suicide bombers and terrorists from hitting their real targets. Right from the planned attack at the Marriot to the attempt to target a Moharram procession in Peshawar, or the plan to blow up another gathering in Dera Islmail Khan, all were prevented because of the security checks put in place by the authorities.
Even at most other places during Moharram the authorities managed to maintain peace even though there were reports of terrorist attacks planned on the mourning procession on Ashura.
The latest attempt to target the Islamabad airport was foiled due to enhanced security by the Airport Security Force. So far most of the victims had been security personnel, both official and private, but had any, one of the bombers succeeded the consequences would have been disastrous.
One official said an intelligence agency had reported to the government that six suicide bombers had reached Islamabad to hit high-profile targets. “The report seems to be based on facts because six out of two terrorists have already carried out attacks including the one at Marriott Hotel and the other who died during a fire-fight at the Islamabad Airport,” the official said.
It is feared that the other four bombers can strike anywhere in the capital and most probably some VIPs or important buildings.The official, however, said there was a possibility that the remaining terrorists had left the capital after finding it difficult to strike due to extraordinary security measures.
Meanwhile, high security alert has been declared in Islamabad and strict checking of visitors is being conducted at the entrance of all important buildings.
The employees of all government offices and federal ministries have been directed to display their official identity cards otherwise they would not be allowed to enter into their offices. These security instructions have been displayed at the entrance of all government offices and federal ministries.
The sources said a high-level meeting presided over by Secretary Syed
Kamal Shah was attended by Additional Secretary Interior Qamar Zaman, Punjab Home Secretary Khusro Pervez, Chief Commissioner Islamabad Khalid Pervez and senior officials of civil and military intelligence agencies.
The meeting reviewed law and order situation in the twin cities of
Rawalpindi and Islamabad and decided that security should be further beefed up around important buildings, commercial centres and public places.
Chief Commissioner Khalid Pervez said: “Security of important buildings has also been beefed up because in the prevailing circumstances we cannot take any risk”.
He said the assistance of private security agencies had also been sought and some of them had provided their guards to local administration to support local police to avert any attempt of terrorist attack in future.
The official said the staff of some restaurants and hotels had been imparted security training to enable them to take their own security steps these days.
Mr Pervez said National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) had obtained fingerprints of the armed attacker who was killed in Islamabad Airport on Tuesday night to know if they matched with the fingerprints of all Computerised National Identity Cards (CINCs) holders.
Meanwhile, investigator handling the airport incident said the video grabs from the ASF checkpoint where the attacker’s car was blocked clearly showed a light green 1976 model car entering the airport premises. It showed the Airport Security Force (ASF) security guard Abdul Raheem signalling the driver to stop at a checkpoint at around 9pm where scanners and searchlights have been installed to check vehicles.
Instantly, the car driver alighted from the vehicle but again went inside after exchanging some words with the ASF security guard. He parked the vehicle on the roadside when he was asked by the ASF official to do so for a search.
The ASF guard called his colleague Zulfiqar Sumbul who was standing a few yards away from him and both started examining the vehicle. In the meantime, the attacker stepped out of the car, opened fire and tried to move towards the VIP lounge but the ASF officials retaliated and forced him to retreat.
The video showed the armed man throwing a grenade at ASF officials but it did not explode. The terrorist took cover behind one of the vehicles in the parking, threw his empty pistol away and detonated a grenade which the security staff said had been tied around his body.
The car driver Naeem Akhtar who has been taken in custody by the investigators, is stated to be an employee of a semi-government department.
He, according to the security officials, was driving taxi on part time basis. The security personnel also caught a bearded foreigner from the ASF cafeteria soon after the airport attack. His identity could not be ascertained.
However, a senior security official said the detainee was a passerby who took shelter in the ASF canteen during exchange of fire.
The security sources revealed that the armed men had hired the car from Tarnol area for airport to `receive his guest’. The autopsy of the body of the attacker has been carried out at the Military Hospital in Rawalpindi and an FIR of the incident has been registered and sealed by the airport police.