LAHORE: Al Qaeda leader Bilal Lateef alias Yasir Punjabi and 13 other suspected militants who were killed in two ‘encounters’ with the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of police in Multan and Muzaffar­garh this week had been in the custody of law enforcement agencies for the past four months, sources said on Friday.

CTD personnel gunned down eight suspects in Nawabpur, Multan, during a shootout late on Wednesday night and six, including Yasir Punjabi, in Mondka Chowk, Muzaffargarh, in the early hours of Friday morning.

A source in an intelligence agency told Dawn on Friday that the suspected terrorists were arrested by the Bahawalpur CTD in joint operations with the Military Intelligence (MI) and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from different parts of Punjab during winter.

The sources claimed that Yasir Punjabi, a resident of Lahore, was head of the Punjab chapter of Al Qaeda and the interior ministry had proposed a reward of Rs1 million on his head. His name was also listed in the police’s Red Book.

Yasir Punjabi and his associates were alleged to be involved in masterminding, facilitating, training, provision of logistics and reconnaissance of targets in different parts of the country.

Yasir Punjabi was wanted in several terrorist attacks on police installations like the CIA headquarters, police rest house and Special Branch buildings in Gujranwala. He was involved in attacking Ahmadis’ worship places in Lahore in 2010 in which more than 90 people were killed.

Yasir Punjabi and his associates were also involved in targeted killing of police officers in Uch Sharif, Muzaffargarh, D.G. Khan and Layyah, and in the assassination of Brig Fazal Qadri. They were also blamed for attacking a religious gathering in Sargodha in September 2014.

The sources further contended that the suspects were interrogated by the CTD, MI and ISI to their satisfaction.

Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Sukhera claimed on Friday that all the heads of terrorist organisations in south Punjab had been eliminated.

He termed the killing of Yasir Punjabi and his associates an important development in the operation against terrorism.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2016

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