MUZAFFARABAD/ISLAMABAD, Dec 7: Security forces have launched a ‘quiet’ crackdown on activists belonging to the banned jihadi outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba in different parts of the country and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

In Muzaffarabad, a major army operation was under way in the city suburbs on Sunday against a site being used by the Jamaatud Dawa, which is headed by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Sources said that more than 20 members of the banned organisation and Lashkar-i-Taiba’s ‘commander’ Zakiur Rehman Lakhwi had been arrested.

There are reports that similar actions are planned in some cities and towns of Punjab. Pakistan is under international pressure to take action against the organisation for its alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

However, reports of the crackdown could not be confirmed from the interior ministry or the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Police and civil administration officials in Muzaffarabad told reporters they did not know what was happening.

Local residents, however, said they had seen army personnel taking control of the area along Shawai Nullah, some five kilometres northwest of Muzaffarabad, where the organisation possesses a large plot of land on which several buildings had been built. The Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) of Hafiz Saeed occupied the same place before the organisation was proscribed.

“I saw an army helicopter hovering over the area and around 5pm I heard two or three loud explosions,” a woman who lives in the area told Dawn on phone.

Another person said: “The helicopter … may have airlifted people detained or injured during the operation.”

There were unconfirmed reports of an exchange of fire.

Ambulances from various city hospitals had been called to the area by troops but witnesses said they returned without any injured person.

In Chehla Bandi, soldiers are reported to be checking vehicles bound for the Neelum Valley.

Several attempts were made to obtain army’s version about the reported operation but reporters were told that a statement would soon be issued by the ISPR.

A Jamaatud Dawa office-bearer denied that a crackdown had been launched on his organisation in other areas. The organisation has another office in Muzaffarabad where no such action was taken.

It is believed that the action taken by Pakistan against the Lashkar-e-Taiba will defuse to some extent the growing tension between the two neigbours.

Updated Dec 08, 2008 12:00am

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