LAHORE: Punjab counter-terrorism department and the Intelligence Bureau have smashed “the biggest network” of the Tehreek Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the province in joint operations, an official claimed.

The network had carried out two major deadly suicide attacks -- on army personnel on Bedian Road in July and targeting policemen on Ferozepur Road near Arfa Karim Tower in April 2017, he said.

The militants were dispatched by the TTP leadership from a Maddarasa located at Gajumata near Ferozepur Road to hit the targets.

The arrests of six TTP militants were made by Joint Operation Teams (JOTs) of the CTD and IB in raids carried out across the province.

Most arrests were made in Lahore and Gujranwala, an official privy to the development told Dawn.

During interrogation, he said, the militants made many stunning revelations, saying the TTP men in the network had allegedly killed in a brazen attack Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) Brigadier Zahoor Fazal Qadri and his brother, in Sargodha in 2004. Similarly, they had also killed Dr Siftullah in Dera Ismail Khan.

The high-command of the law enforcement agencies termed it a great breakthrough in the recent IBOs (Intelligence Based Operations). He said huge human resource and technical means were used to unearth the network in Punjab.

The large-scale TTP re-organisation across the province through the local handlers had baffled the law enforcement agencies, he said.

The TTP leadership from Afghanistan had provided the terrorists in Punjab a huge amount as “token money” to hit the targets and promised the remaining funds after the attacks.

“During ongoing investigation, a very important lead was matured on 9th March, 2018, wherein it was revealed that the TTP had launched a big network in Punjab to target the PSL (Pakistan Super League) cricket matches on 20 and 21 March in Lahore”, the official said.

After this, he said, the joint team raided a place on outskirts of Lahore and recovered a suicide jacket and some very important evidence, including maps of targeted places.

Form the analysis of the evidences, it was further revealed that the TTP had got support of local elements too, he added.

“It was something new and very surprising because the Jamatul Ahrar, the other faction of the TTP involved in attacks in Lahore in 2014 to 2016, had not been able to find any local facilitators during three years”, the official said.

He said JOTs of the CTD-IB were activated all over Punjab for the manhunt.

He said in an extraordinary move, hundreds of intelligence officers of both agencies, under cover and overtly, were deployed allover Punjab to arrest these militants or at least keep them on the run to save the PSL matches.

The official said the agencies got intelligence about some suspects in Gujranwala. On 20th March the teams conducted a raid in Gujranwala city in which a militant identified as Husnain Muavia killed himself while his two accomplices fled the scene. Muavia was allegedly involved in multiple acts of terrorism, he added.

From the hideout some evidence was found about the militants’ plan to target PSL matches. Finally, on 29th March, the JOTs arrested the six militants from a hideout in a seminary, Ashaab-i-Suffa, at Gajjumatta, Lahore. The network used the place as a launching pad for attacks on Bedian Road and near Arfa Karim Tower.

The alleged militants included Islamul Haq, Jehangir Shah, Imran alias Iran of Shangla, Swat, Waqarul Amin alias Qari of Haripur, KP, Aleemur Rehman of Kasur and Muhammad Luqman of Narowal.

The official said during interrogation it transpired that Luqman had sworn to blow himself up at the Gaddafi Stadium to sabotage PSL matches, or as a second option, in Narowal, but his handlers remained on the run and could not launch him at the crucial time.

The agencies have started a vigorous hunt across the province on the basis of the intelligence reports and the information gleaned from the militants in custody for the arrest of other TTP men including Moaaz alias Aqib, the in-charge for Punjab. He passes orders of TTP emir Fazlullah to the network.

The official said Sohaib, a resident of Sargodha, who is in the agencies Red Book, had himself dropped suicide bombers for attacks on Bedian Road and Arfa Karim Tower.

Muhammad alias Usman, a resident of Layyah, is a close aide of Sohaib, while Abdul Rauf from Kot Addu, is the network leader for local area.

Mohibullah, a residentof Buner, KP, fled Afghanistan and is with Fazlullah these days, while Faisal from Chakwal, who was recently in Gajjumatta, went underground.

The agencies also got information about some other militants, including Muqeem, a resident of Karak, KP, Muzamal of Lahore and several other active members of the TTP in Punjab.

The CTD officials also recovered a long list of targets the TTP aims to hit in Punjab with maps, including some political personalities, officers and offices of the law enforcement agencies, Imam barghas and worship places of a minority etc.

The joint teams of the CTD and IB are collecting intelligence and conducting raids all over Punjab to arrest the remaining militants of the network.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2018

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