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KARACHI: Eight suspected militants belonging to the newly-formed Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP) were shot dead in an ‘encounter’ jointly carried out by Pakistan Rangers, Sindh and the police’s Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in Baldia’s Raees Goth in the wee hours of Sunday morning, according to officials.

Two personnel of the paramilitary force and one policeman were injured during the heavy exchange of fire.

The deceased militants were involved in nine major acts of terrorism this year, including an attack on the Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly, Khwaja Izharul Hasan, last month, said Col Faisal Awan.

Speaking at a press conference at the Rangers headquarters, the official said the dead militants got training in Afghanistan and were “ideologically linked” with the banned Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.

“They were highly educated militants,” revealed the official. However, Col Faisal clarified that no evidence was found that a terror cell existed in any academic institution. He also said that no teacher was found involved in terrorist acts.

Col Faisal said that with the help of technical and human intelligence, both Rangers and the CTD carried out the joint operation in Raees Goth.

Official says attack on Izhar was aimed at discrediting law enforcement agencies

In the ‘encounter’ five suspects were killed on the spot while three others arrested in an injured condition died later.

Their bodies were taken to Civil Hospital, Karachi, to fulfil medico-legal formalities.

All dead militants sustained multiple bullet wounds on their chest, abdomen, hands and legs, said additional police surgeon Dr Qarar Ahmed Abbasi.

Aged between 30 and 35 years, they were identified as Mohammad Arslan Ali Baig, Hafiz Saeed Jamal, Hafiz Sharafuddin Ahmed Warsi, Kamran Riaz, Talha Ansari, Wariharul Haq Malik, Hassan Haroon and Shaikh Abu Bakar.

“There is evidence that two or more militants managed to escape, taking advantage of darkness,” admitted Col Faisal Awan.

He pointed out that the Ansarul Sharia had proclaimed its emergence after the targeted killing of retired Col Zia Nagi this year and its website showed allegiance to Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Besides, this outfit had also carried out targeted killings of nine policemen, including one DSP traffic, three PQRs (Police Qaumi Razakars) and two FBR guards this year.

“They also carried out an armed attack on Opposition Leader in the Sindh Assembly, Khwaja Izharul Hasan on Sept 2 this year in which one attacker, Hassan Nazeer, was killed by Taimuria police in an encounter,” said the Rangers official.

The attack on Khwaja Izhar was aimed at discrediting law enforcement agencies and triggering chaos in Karachi. Amir Farooqi, the CTD DIG, shared details of the attack on Khwaja Izhar with the help of CCTV footage and said that the killed terrorist Hassan Nazeer and absconders Abdul Karim Sarosh and Muzammil were involved in the attack. Hassan, who wore police uniform, opened fire on Khwaja Izhar.

“Its motive was to implicate the government or police in the attack on Khwaja Izhar since the police had earlier detained the MQM’s senior leader,” said DIG Farooqi, adding that it was aimed at discrediting the law enforcers and triggering chaos in the metropolis.

After the attack, Sarosh’s bike suffered some fault and the CCTV footage showed that it was being pushed by Muzammil. The footage also showed that a police mobile and a few policemen chased the suspects on foot. After being injured during an exchange of fire with the police, Hassan abandoned the motorbike and tried to flee when a mob got hold of him and removed his shirt.

Col Faisal said during the raid on Abdul Karim Sarosh’s home off Superhighway on Sept 4, in which he managed to escape in an injured condition the law enforcers seized a laptop, CDs, a mobile phone, video recordings and other material. The scope of investigation was widened after the recovery of these materials.

Both civil and military institutions performed a ‘key role’ in collecting evidences against the ASP. “The ASP comprised 12 to 15 members who were highly educated,” said Col Faisal.

Out of them, six to eight members were directly involved in targeted killings while the rest provided funding and cover. They also carried out reconnaissance for attacks.

“Dr Abdullah Hashmi, the mastermind of all attacks and leader of the outfit who was killed in late Saturday night’s encounter,” said the official.

He also claimed that it was ‘media speculation’ that Hafiz Sharfuddin Ahmed Warsi alias Dr Abdullah Hashmi was arrested following the attack on Khwaja Izhar.

Four ‘key’ members of the ASP were still absconders. The Rangers official identified them as Danish Rasheed, Junaid Rasheed, Abdul Karim Sarosh and Muzammil.

However, Col Faisal believed that the ASP’s capacity to carry out terror acts had “almost ended”.

DIG Amir Farooqi agreed with Col Faisal and said this militant outfit had now been ‘neutralised’.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2017