RAWALPINDI: A group of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) based in Attock was involved in the suicide attack which killed Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada along with 18 other people on August 16, a security source told Dawn on Tuesday.

He said the involvement of Qari Sohail Group in the attack was unearthed by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), adding that one of the facilitators who was aware of the conspiracy behind the attack had also been arrested.

However, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) claimed that the facilitator, identified as Qasim Muavia, had been tracked down jointly by the CTD and the ISI though the latter had a major role in it.

The source said Muavia was one of the members of the Qari Sohail Group and had been on the ‘most wanted list’ of the CTD for his alleged involvement in target killings in the Attock district.

Qari Sohail, who belonged to the Domel village of tehsil Jhand in Attock, used to organise militant groups, the security source said, adding that some members of his group had been arrested by the Attock police early this year.

Muavia was picked by the ISI a couple of days ago from Attock. However, later he was handed over to the CTD for legal proceeding, the security source said.

The involvement of Qari Sohail Group in the suicide attack emerged when the investigators found a motorcycle abandoned at the scene of the attack. The bike was suspected to be used by the bomber for reaching Khanzada’s dera in the Shadi Khan village of Attock.

The name and contact number of ‘Zulfiqar auto dealer’ inscribed on the bike helped the investigators to trace the group allegedly involved in the attack, the source said.

When Zulfiqar was taken into custody, he told the investigators that he had sold the bike to one of his cousins, Aftab, who was an active member of the TTP and an accomplice of Qari Sohail.

The source said Aftab later handed over the motorcycle to Qari Sohail who used it to bring the suicide bomber to the dera of the minister to carry out the attack. Aftab along with his wife was later found missing from his home in Attock. It is believed that he fled to the tribal areas and was killed there.

Though Qari Sohail has not been traced, his mother still lives in Attock.

The source said former District Police Officer (DPO) Attock Israr Ahmed Abbasi had arrested three members of Qari Sohail’s gang for their alleged involvement in target killing cases.

The source said Muavia was one of the members of the Qari Sohail Group and aware of the plot to target the Punjab home minister.

The CTD claimed that Qari Sohail was the mastermind of the suicide attack and had dropped the bomber close to the dera of the minister. The source said Qari Sohail used several other local facilitators, including Qasim Muavia, Amjad, Fayaz, Naz Zaheer, Talha, Imran Sattar, Sadaqat and Saddam, for carrying out the terror attack.

A spokesman for the Counter-Terrorism Department said the CTD and ISI were jointly working to arrest the remaining accused involved in the suicide bombing in Attock. However, the CTD did not reveal the name and identity of the suicide bomber.

The CTD has also arrested the prayer leader of a mosque located near the dera of Shuja Khanzada in the Attock village in connection with the suicide attack.

On Tuesday, the CTD produced the accused before the civil-judge-cum-judicial magistrate, Shafqat Saeed Gondal, and sought his physical remand. The court gave the suspect to the CTD on a 15-day physical remand.

Published in Dawn, September 30th , 2015

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