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KARACHI: A forensic examination of spent bullet casings collected from the crime scene after the killing of a DSP Traffic along with his driver on Saturday confirmed that the same weapon had been used earlier in a fatal attack on four policemen in June.

Police officials investigating the killing of DSP Traffic Hanif Khan and his driver, constable Sultan Ishtiaq, in Azizabad on Friday morning believed that the assailants in both the attacks were the same.

“The same group appeared to be involved in both the incidents, as the police’s forensic division has confirmed that the same 9mm pistol was used in these attacks,” said SSP Munir Ahmed Shaikh of the Counter-Terrorism Department of police.

The responsibility for the two gun attacks had already been claimed by Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP), a recently formed militant group, as per the pamphlets found at the crime scenes. 

Bulletproof jackets distributed amongst traffic police

Meanwhile, the police registered a case against unidentified suspects for the murder of DSP Khan and Constable Ishtiaq under Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997.

“From their modus operandi, ASP members seemed to be highly trained and educated,” said Additional IG Sanaullah Abbasi who heads the CTD in Sindh.

The department suspected that elements returning from Syria had formed this group.

“Elements dissociating from Lashkar-i-Taiba and Jaish-i-Mohammad may have joined this group,” apprehended AIG Abbasi. The CTD assessment showed that ideologically, the ASP claimed to be a new and independent group that did not owe its allegiance to either Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent or the militant Islamic State group.

“The ASP’s modus operandi is to go after soft targets affiliated with the security services,” said the CTD chief.

In their pamphlets, AIG Abbasi said, the group had stated that they would continue to attack security forces personnel who “prop up a corrupt system.”

Previous attacks 

Citing four major incidents of law enforcers’ killings in the police’s West and East Zones and targeted killing of a retired army official over the past four months, the CTD chief opined that the attacks were carried out for creating “maximum impact”.

“For example, the targeted killing of a retired army officer presented the group with the softest of targets, but the impact of the killing among the armed forces community was extremely serious. The assailants were sending the message that the state cannot protect its own people,” said the CTD head. Similarly, he said, the targeted killing of police officials spread a wave of fear and uncertainty in the metropolis.

TTP’s involvement

Apart from ASP’s involvement in the targeted killing of policemen and a retired colonel, the CTD chief said their assessment showed that the Mufti Shakir-led group might be involved in two incidents of the East zone of police — the killing of three policemen and a passerby in Korangi’s Awami Colony area on July 21 and the killing of a traffic official on Abul Hasan Ispahani Road on July 24.

AIG Abbasi said Mufti Shakir was a known TTP ‘commander’, formerly based in the SITE area of Karachi, who had a seminary being operated by his brother there.

Mufti Shakir was involved in running TTP hit squads that targeted police officers in districts West and Central in 2012-13. “He was briefly arrested following the murder of CTD SSP Chaudhry Aslam,” said AIG Abbasi.

He said: “There was conclusive evidence that he had handled the suicide bomber who killed SSP Aslam, but Shakir was not formally challaned in that case.

“Resultantly, he [Shakir] was able to get bail on false pretences a few months later,” said the CTD chief.

The AIG said Shakir then escaped to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province and was allegedly running “one of the most active training camps in the region.”

“Mufti Shakir is also suspected of working at the behest of Afghan intelligence to launch attacks in Karachi,” said the CTD chief.

The killing of three members of that group in Machhar Colony on Aug 4 and the arrest of three other members of the group besides the raid on the seminary from where seven suspects including close relatives of Shakir were arrested and subsequent interrogation showed that this group was behind the killing of the policemen in Korangi’s Awami Colony and traffic police official’s killing on Abul Hasan Ispahani Road.

The officer hinted that efforts were under way to arrest the individuals involved in the killings.

Bulletproof jackets

Meanwhile, officials said light-weight bulletproof jackets had recently been given to the traffic police in the city.

Just a week ago, the US consul general had handed over 6,000 light-weight bulletproof jackets to the police at a ceremony held at the CPO. Of them, 3,500 such jackets were for traffic police and 2,500 for district police.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017