KARACHI: The Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) suspects that the banned Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is ‘regrouping’ in the city to carry out terrorist attacks, it emerged on Monday.
The CTD also claimed to have busted two other outfits whose members had been active in sectarian killings and murders of policemen.
“We have received reports that six ‘disgruntled’ militants of the AQIS recently arrived in Karachi from Afghanistan and they are trying to activate their sleeper cell,” said counterterrorism official Raja Umar Khattab.
The CTD official believed it was a splinter group of AQIS that comprised members of different communities who belonged to Karachi and had gone to Afghanistan. They had reportedly developed differences with their leadership, partly because they did not utilise their ‘services’ for a considerable period of time, and now they had returned to Karachi.
Six militants have recently returned to Karachi from Afghanistan
Law enforcers were making concerted efforts to bust this emerging cell and the CTD official hoped they would be ‘neutralised’ before they could carry out any act of terror.
Mr Khattab, who heads the CTD’s Transnational Terrorism Intelligence Group (TTIG), suggested that barring two or three incidents, targeted killings had decreased significantly in the metropolis.
However, he admitted that sectarian violence existed in the city and one or two targeted killing incidents had occurred. "But sectarian violence is mostly tit-for-tat killings," he added.
He claimed that the law enforcers through their joint efforts had wiped out two groups — one led by a Lashkar-i-Jhangvi militants and the other belonging to outlawed Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan (SMP) — involved in sectarian killings.
LJ militant M. Mumtaz alias Firaun along with his accomplice Ahmed Khan alias Munna had escaped from the Karachi central prison in June 2017.
He was involved in targeted killing of 57 people, including members of the Shia community and police. He was arrested in 2013 and charged in 32 cases.
He returned to the city to carry out killings after living in hiding for some time. His accomplice Khan reportedly lives in Afghanistan now.
“Besides sectarian killings, this gang was also involved in recent killings of policemen in Orangi Town,” said the official.
The CTD and other law enforcers carried out a joint operation in Balochistan in which Firaun was killed along with his accomplices. His several accomplices were arrested in Karachi.
CTD official Khattab said that six suspects belonging to the SMP were arrested following the March 22 attack on prominent religious scholar Mufti Taqi Usmani in Gulshan-i-Iqbal in which his three aides were killed.
He said that their money trail was also traced and it transpired that they got instructions and funds from abroad.
No arrest in Taqi Usmani attack case
The CTD official conceded that the gang behind the deadly attack on Mufti Taqi Usmani had so far not been arrested.
He said that the attack on the religious scholar was partly motivated by sectarian considerations.
He said that the same group which had attacked banned Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) chief Aurangzeb Farooqi in Korangi in 2013 had carried out the attack on Taqi Usmani in Gulshan.
“That group still remains untraceable,” he said.
Commenting on the murder of Dr Haider Askari, who was shot dead on Aug 30 in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Khattab said that most probably it was linked with sectarian violence.
He pointed out that sometime back unknown criminals had sent two bullets to his home ostensibly to threaten him but without making any demands.
However, he said that it was not necessary that the LJ was behind the killing, as AQIS and other militant groups also carry out sectarian killings.
‘AQIS capacity to carry out IED blasts diminished’
Regarding a botched bomb attack in Quaidabad on the same day, the CTD official said they were focusing on involvement of both jihadi and insurgent nationalist groups.
He suspected involvement of jihadi elements as the modus operandi matched theirs. It was ostensibly aimed at targeting policemen as a police mobile was standing at the scene of the botched attack, he added.
He said that it required certain expertise to prepare an explosive-laden bike. Preparing a vehicle laced with explosives meant they also had a hideout in the city, he added.
He recalled that in 2016 two active AQIS members were killed by the CTD in an encounter in Gadap. “They were experts in bomb making and since then, AQIS’s capacity to carry out IED (improvised explosive device) blasts had diminished.”
It was being investigated whether AQIS or any other militant group was involved in the Aug 30 Quaidabad incident, he said.
He said that AQIS and other outfits’ ‘sleeper cells’ existed in the city but they could not succeed in carrying out any major act of terrorism as their “capacity and funds have been diminished”.
Besides, they were facing difficulties in returning to Pakistan by crossing Pak-Afghan border due to recent fencing.
“The situation is not conducive at Pak-Afghan border area because of the fencing,” he said, adding: “They were not in a position to carry out a major terror act.”
Regarding the potential threat of the militant Islamic State group, he said IS had mostly preferred suicide bombings or mass killings. The group sent suicide bombers to Pakistan from Afghanistan and it was behind major suicide attacks in Balochistan as well as upper Sindh.
However, after the May 2016 Safoora bus carnage in which 43 members of Shia Ismaili community were killed, the IS had not been found involved in any major terrorism act in Karachi, he added.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2019