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LAHORE: Four people suspected of involvement in the suicide attack on slain Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada were killed in an 'encounter' early on Thursday.

The suspects identified as Fayyaz, Amjad, Saddam and Sadaqat were killed in an exchange of fire with Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Sheikhupura personnel, sources say.

The CTD conducted an intelligence-based raid on a house in Iqbal Town Division's Sherakot area on the outskirts of Lahore.

The CTD received "secret information" regarding the presence of 7-8 terrorists within the limits of Sherakot police station, the Punjab CTD spokesman said, adding, "They were planning to launch a big attack on officials of law enforcement agencies in the late morning," he said.

The spokesman said the CTD officials went to arrest them. "The officials challenged them and told them to surrender. Instead of laying down arms, the terrorists started firing at the police party. The police fired in self defence. After some time, the firing stopped. Four terrorists were found dead, killed by firing of their own accomplices," he said.

The spokesman confirmed that around 3-4 suspects had "fled from the scene, taking benefit of darkness".

The suspects are affiliated with a banned militant organisation and had facilitated the Aug 16 suicide attack on Khanzada, CTD sources claim.

"Heavy arms and explosives have been recovered from the terrorists, including AK-47 rifles, pistols, guns, live rounds, more than 10 kilograms explosives, detonators, wires, batteries and motorcycles," the CTD spokesman said.

"CTD has initiated an investigation into the incident."

Also read: TTP group involved in Attock suicide bombing

IG Punjab details police action in press conference

In a press conference held on Wednesday evening, Inspector General Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera confirmed that the terrorist killed today facilitated the attack on Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada.

According to IG Punjab, the terrorists were staying at Amjad’s house in Mullah Mansoor village, which was near to Khanzada's Shadi Khan village. They also stored arms and ammunition at Amjad’s house.

The IG stated that on the day of the attack, Saddam and Qasim confirmed that Khanzada was present at his village.

“Sohail and the suicide bomber, Muaz, on receiving confirmation of Khanzada’s presence in Shadi Khan village made their way there, after which Muaz was instructed to proceed on foot to Khanzada’s residence,” explained Sukhera.

Sukhera added that after the suicide bomber was dropped off, who was well aware of the area, Sohail and Amjad travelled back to Amjad’s house and shifted the remaining arms and explosives to a different location.

“The terrorist confirmed the attack through news on TV channels,” stated IG Punjab.

The motorcycle used by the suicide bomber was later recovered and security agencies traced it to the dealer who confirmed that they sold two motorcycles to Sohail’s group.

“Fayyaz and Amjad were traced through the clues received from the motorcycle dealer,” added Sukhera.

The IG added that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) played a major role in tracing the terrorists, and their movements were confirmed through cell phone records.

It was further stated during the press conference that the arrest of Qasim Muavia proved instrumental in cracking the case.

IG Punjab concluded the press conference by adding that today’s police action averted a major tragedy in Lahore and he appreciated the cooperation between different security agencies in helping to resolve the case.

Earlier this week, the CTD announced the arrest of a suspected facilitator of the attack on Khanzada, Qasim Muavia.

A CTD source said Muavia was a member 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.

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, Dawn newspaper had reported.

The source said Muavia was aware of the plot to target the Punjab home minister.

The CTD had 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 Inter-Services Intelligence (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.

Also read: Punjab home minister Shuja Khanzada killed in terror attack

Shuja Khanzada was killed in a suicide attack on his political office in Shadi Khan village, Attock, in August, along with 16 others.

Two suicide bombers affiliated with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) carried out the bombing, a provincial government official had earlier said. Two additional suicide bombers had been deputed to Lahore to attack Khanzada's residence, the official said, but they were recalled after the Attock attack.

Following the incident, a First-Information Report (FIR) had been filed by the Station House Officer (SHO) Ghulam Shabbir of the Rangoo police station on behalf of the state against those involved in the attack.

An initial investigation report given to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif revealed that the home minister was killed in retaliation of the killing of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi chief Malik Ishaq and others.

Also read: Shuja Khanzada murder: FIR registered against unidentified attackers