KARACHI: As investigation into the bomb attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan on Thursday evening is under way, Inspector General of Police A.D. Khowaja has said the suspected suicide bomber has been spotted in the footage of security cameras.

He added that the suspect appeared to be an Afghan national who entered the shrine bypassing the security check at the gate.

Only one policeman could be seen in the footage searching visitors at the gate. However, the suspect managed to enter the shrine without being searched by the lone policeman.

More than 80 people, including women and children, were killed and hundreds of devotees injured in the blast at the shrine.

Talking to a group of journalists at the IG House in Clifton on Sunday before proceeding to Sehwan, the Sindh police chief said the suspected bomber could be seen in the footage obtained with the help of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera installed there.

The footage, which was also shown to the media, showed that the suspect, wearing waistcoat with a handkerchief on his shoulder, entered the shrine when the police guard was checking other visitors at the gate.

The IG said the police investigators were ‘99 per cent’ sure in their assessment that the suspect spotted in the footage was the suicide bomber.

He admitted that the investigators faced difficulties in collecting evidence from the crime scene because the shrine was jam-packed with visitors.

Meanwhile, two suspects were arrested in Dadu and five in Sehwan town. They were kept at an unknown place. A joint team of police, the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and law enforcement agencies also arrested two persons in Johi. They are said to be facilitators of the suicide blast.

However, the IG said, police were taking different aspects into consideration while investigating the incident. The involvement of Hafeez Brohi-led militant group in the carnage could not be ruled out, he added.

Police sources told Dawn that Hafeez Brohi or Abdul Hafeez Pandrani, resident of Haji Abdul Khaliq Pandrani Goth in Shikarpur, had been providing shelter to militants of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (Asif Chhotu group) and other militant outfits.

Hafeez, in his mid-30s, had also done reconnaissance for terror acts in the past, they added.

The police sources said the suicide bomber who had blown himself up in an Imambargah in Shikarpur two years ago had stayed with Hafeez Brohi, while his brother had carried out a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

“Hafeez Brohi has established a network of terror in Sindh,” the IG said.

Speaking to Dawn, Additional IG Dr Sanaullah Abbasi, who heads the CTD, said: “Hafeez Brohi had been found involved in almost all terror acts taken place in upper Sindh in recent past.”

The CTD is investigating the shrine bombing.

The AIG said Hafeez had been declared an absconder in cases related to terrorist activities in Shikarpur and Jacobabad districts, including the deadly explosion in the Imambargah in Shikarpur that had left 65 people dead.

He said the CTD was investigating the shrine blast case from different perspectives. “Apparently, the deadly bombing at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was linked with terror acts in other parts of the country during the past one week,” said AIG Abbasi.

Since this was the first such major terror incident in the Hyderabad region, the investigators were also looking into the possibility of an attempt to destabilise the entire Sindh province, he added.

“Investigations into all previous terror acts in Shikarpur and Jacobabad revealed that terrorism in Sindh had links with Afghanistan because the suspects behind all the incidents had been trained in the neighbouring country,” the officer said.

Besides, he added, Hafeez Brohi, who had both “ethnic and religious bonds” with the Mengals in Balochistan, was found involved in most of the terror cases in northern parts of Sindh.

Hafeez Brohi studied at a seminary and had ties with militant outfits.

“Some suspects have been detained for interrogation in connection with the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine attack and the investigators have got some leads to the culprits involved in this deadly terror act,” said the CTD chief.

Published in Dawn, February 20th , 2017

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