KARACHI: Police investigations into some recent incidents of targeted killings in the city in recent weeks have traced the involvement of a new “underworld criminal group” being run by notorious Lyari gangsters who managed to flee abroad following the launch of Karachi operation in 2013, it emerged on Wednesday.
Officials found that the random murders of five people — former Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Ali Raza Abidi, a young resident of Liaquatabad, a traffic policeman and two brothers of Korangi — were actually connected as the killers used two similar weapons — .30-bore pistols — to target them.
Senior counterterrorism official Raja Umar Khattab told Dawn that the killings of Ali Raza Abidi in Defence on Dec 25, 2018 and a young man of Liaquatabad were totally different cases but a forensic examination of the spent bullet casings found at the two crime scenes showed that they were killed by the same weapon (.30-bore).
Likewise, traffic policeman Ehtisham Ahmed and two Ahmadi brothers, Zafarullah and Nasrullah, were murdered with the same weapon, also a .30-bore pistol, in Soldier Bazaar and Korangi areas, respectively.
Use of .30-bore pistol increases in crimes in city
Mr Khattab, the officer in charge of the Counter-Terrorism Department’s Transnational Terrorism Intelligence Group, said that those who killed the MQM leader and the Liaquatabad resident had links with two key Lyari gang war characters, Ustad Taju and Wasiullah Lakho, who were nowadays hiding in South Africa and Iran, respectively.
Killers for hire
However, he said that members of the new underworld gang “may belong to a political party, Lyari gang war and other criminal groups based in South Africa”.
He said that the new gang was also involved in street crimes, robberies, etc, but it appeared that they were also carrying out “contract killings”.
The official said two weeks before the murder of MQM leader Abidi, unidentified men shot dead Ehtisham, the Liaquatabad resident. The spent bullet casings collected from the scene were sent for a forensic analysis. When Abidi was killed on Dec 25, 2018 the spent bullet casings were also collected. Their forensic analysis revealed that the same weapon was also used in the Liaquatabad killing.
Giving details about the Liaquatabad incident, he said that investigations revealed that although Ehtisham was killed on Dec 10, 2018 by unknown persons, the murder was orchestrated by Irfan alias Motan, who is said to be a close aide of Ustad Taju.
The official said that Irfan had remained associated with Lyari gangsters as he used to collect extortion from a gambling den in Ghaas Mandi. He shifted to Dubai and later to Muscat, from where he was arrested and deported to Pakistan. He moved from Lyari to Liaquatabad and started living in an apartment complex, where Ehtisham also lived.
As Irfan’s wife befriended Ehtisham, Irfan on multiple occasions threatened the latter with dire consequences through his several accomplices if he did not “stay away” from his wife. However, Ehtisham did not budge and was subsequently killed.
He said that suspects who were sent to threaten Ehtisham belonged to Urdu-speaking, Baloch and Pakhtun communities.
“Four to five minutes after his killing, Irfan phoned his wife and told her to go see the body [of Ehtisham],” the CTD official said.
He said that Irfan fled to Punjab first and lived in Faisalabad at the house of Ustad Taju’s nephew. Later, he fled to Iran from where he recently sent a video to inform his mother that he was abroad and safe. He was sitting besides another Lyari gang war character, Wasiullah Lakho, who also fled to Iran after the launching of Karachi operation in 2013, Mr Khattab added.
The CTD official said that Taju, who now lives in South Africa, was a known character of Lyari gang warfare and he remained active since Rehman Dakait’s time.
About remaining three murders, the CTD official said that the murder of traffic constable Ahmed, who was shot dead in Soldier Bazaar on Jan 21, and two shopkeeper brothers, earlier thought to be gunned down by “robbers” in Korangi on Aug 24, 2018, were totally different but the forensic examination of spent bullet casings showed that the same weapon (.30-bore) was used in the killings.
He said that it transpired during investigation that both the brothers belonged to Ahmadi community and may have targeted because of their faith.
The traffic policeman belonged to the Barelvi school of thought and investigators also suspected that he was targeted because of his faith.
Law enforcers had arrested two suspects, Javed Akhtar and Rashid, for their alleged involvement in the murder of the two brothers. However, they failed to recover the murder weapon from them. The same weapon was used in the killing of the traffic constable in Soldier Bazaar on Jan 21 — around 11 days after suspect Akhtar managed to escape from a hospital where he was being treated (Akhtar was finally arrested again two days ago).
Mr Khattab said that he grilled the second suspect, Rashid, in prison, and he told him that he had joined a criminal group around six months ago and that Akhtar’s four other accomplices were “hardened criminals” and still at large.
He said Akhtar had remained “active” in religious activities and sported a long beard. One of his accomplices was also a member of a mainstream religious party.
Mr Khattab said that it was not unusual that the criminals involved in street crimes, robberies, etc, also carried out contract killings.
Citing an example, he said that a group, led by gangster Shahid Bikik of Khamosh Colony, was also involved in targeted killings, sectarian murders, etc. The Bikik-led gang was also involved in killing of Inspector Ghazanfar Kazmi.
Another such group, the CTD official said, was led by Huzaifa, a member of a banned sectarian outfit who has been arrested and sentenced to death by a court. His gang not only committed robberies but also carried out targeted killings on sectarian grounds, he added.
Use of .30-bore pistol increases
The CTD official said that the use of TT pistol (.30-bore pistol) had increased manifold in all types of crimes compared to 9mm pistol which was previously used in targeted killings, etc.
Police crime data showed that .30-bore pistol was used in only one criminal incident in 2015. The same weapon was used in three criminal cases, including one murder, in 2016 and two criminal cases in 2017.
However, the crime data revealed that .30-bore or TT pistol was used in 24 criminal cases in 2018 including eight murders and 11 attempted murder cases.
The .30-bore pistols were also used in recent murder of a KDA official in Ferozabad, killing of a shopkeeper in Korangi and of a police constable in North Karachi.
It indicated the possibility that criminals had again started using TT pistol in targeted killings, believed Mr Khattab.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2019