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ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented move Rangers personnel searched the house of New York Times Correspondent Salman Masood as part of a “terrorist search operation”.

Mr Masood, who is also the Islamabad-based resident editor of English daily The Nation, put up a series of posts on his Twitter account on Tuesday morning, documenting the search as Rangers looked around the house.

According to Mr Masood, Rangers personnel arrived at his residence, located in Defence Housing Authority (DHA) Islamabad. A man in plainclothes repeatedly rang his door bell at around 7am. He was accompanied by Rangers personnel and a police officer. “They claimed that they wanted to search the house for a suspect, but they did not have a search warrant,” he said.

“Though I introduced myself to them, they told me to hand over my CNIC and cell phone numbers, then left the house. They came back a little later with some women police officers and asked to search the house. This time, they searched the kitchen cabinets, the dining room and the lounge,” Mr Masood told Dawn.

Police claim search was part of operation carried out in Loi Bher, Sihala areas

“After searching the house, they asked me if I had an illegal weapon in my possession, to which I replied that I did not.” On their way out, he said, they told him they had to search another house nearby, but did not say why.

A senior Islamabad police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that the search operation carried out in DHA Islamabad was not a targeted one. “It was a search operation in which several houses were searched,” he said.

However, nothing suspicious was recovered. In fact, Mr Masood tweeted that he was asked if he “had any illegal weapons hidden in the house”.

Since it was live-tweeted, news of the raid spread quickly and drew condemnation from journalists and civil society activists.

In a statement issued later the same day, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said he was taking notice of the raid and had directed the interior secretary to investigate who ordered the raid and why.

He also sought an explanation from the security agencies, saying that such action was not acceptable.

Islamabad police later released details of search operations conducted on Tuesday, saying that 25 suspects – including two Afghan national – had been picked up during the search operation across the Sihala and Loi Bher areas.

Headed by SP (Rural) Syed Mustafa Tanver, police and Rangers personnel searched 300 houses, including Mr Masood’s residence, and collected information about the occupants of these houses.

Police officials said that when Mr Masood asked to see a warrant, he was told that a search operation could be carried out in the presence of a magistrate. Magistrate Yasir Langah, police said, accompanied the search party.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2016