LAHORE: The Crime Investigation Agency (CIA) claimed on Friday to have busted a gang linked to the outlawed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and involved in targeted killings.

Police said the CIA arrested six members of the gang and seized weapons and ammunition from them.

They said the gang was involved in the killings of advocates Shakir Ali Rizvi and Arshad Ali Shah, Dr Syed Ali Haider and his son Syed Murtaza Ali Haider, Khurram Raza Qadri of the Sunni Tehreek, Allama Nasir Abbas, Syed Ali Hussain Qazilbash and Syed Mubashir Hussain Naqvi.

The gang also allegedly killed Maulana Shamsur Rehman Muavia, the president of Punjab chapter of the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and attacked well-known playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed, journalist and television anchor Raza Rumi and advocate Masood Abid Naqvi, they said.

Police said all the attacks were carried out on the “instigation” of the Malik Ishaq group of the LeJ. Malik Ishaq is currently imprisoned in a Punjab jail.

Capital City Police Officer Chaudhry Shafique Ahmad told a news conference that the suspects carried out 18 attacks since May 2012 and killed 16 people, including religious leaders, lawyers, doctors and other professionals. Four people survived attacks by them.

He said the suspects also kidnapped a trader, Sohaib Ahmad, but released him after receiving Rs20 million in ransom.

He said the leader of the gang, Abdul Rauf Gujjar of Hanif Park, Badami Bagh, launched his criminal career with the help of Malik Ishaq and Haroon Bhatti of the LeJ and later became the chief of the criminal network.

Mr Ahmad said that Abdul Rauf was an active member of the LeJ and acted as hitman during the attacks. He said that Abdul Rauf was keen to develop contacts with the leaders of the banned organisation and held a meeting with Malik Ishaq and Haroon Bhatti for the purpose.

Rauf again met Malik Ishaq, this time at the Madressah Farooq Azam, Shahdara, and joined the latter’s group, said the police officer. Haroon Bhatti, who had been jailed in connection with terrorist activities, persuaded Abdul Rauf to carry out sectarian attacks.

Maulana Muavia was killed by Abdul Rauf allegedly at the instigation of Bhatti who had lost his office to the former in an election. Abdul Rauf offered Friday prayers led by Muavia shortly before the Maulana’s assassination on the Ring Road.

Mr Ahmad said the five other suspects were Sabir Shah, Sheikh Farhan, Shafaqat Farooqi alias Muavia, Mohammad Hashim and Suleman Pathan.

He said a member of the gang, Ikram Ali Sabir, who was involved in four attacks, was arrested in a narcotics case earlier and the information provided by him led to the arrest of the six suspects on Friday. Sabir is a student of Madressah Jamia Azhar, Badami Bagh.

Meanwhile, a police investigator said a traffic warden taken into custody from the Naulakha area a few weeks ago was also associated with the network. The arrested suspects planned to attack two senior police officers in Lahore.

He claimed that Abdul Rauf, who owned 625 acres of land in Kasur and other districts, had been brainwashed by Bhatti. He said Haroon Bhatti, one of the main members of the Malik Ishaq group, was now at large.

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