PESHAWAR: Law-enforcement agencies have busted one of the largest extortion rackets run by the outlawed militant outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and involving hundreds of Afghan and Pakistani operatives to finance terror operations in the country, revealed the counter-terrorism department on Tuesday.
Addressing a news conference at the police lines here, deputy inspector general of police at the CTD’s Counter-Terrorism Finance Unit Imran Shahid said two members of the racket, including Faizullah of Ambar area in Mohmand tribal district and Afghan national Saeedullah living in Lahore, were taken into custody during raids in Mardan and Punjab’s capital.
He said phones used for extortion calls were also seized along with visiting cards of the country’s several businessmen.
Mr Shahid said for the last several months, TTP militants were contacting a large number of people using Afghan phone numbers by WhatsApp and regular calls.
Official says network involving hundreds of Afghans, Pakistanis uses money for terror financing
He said militants issued threats of death and property damage to their targets in case of non-payment of extortion money.
The official said 28 people had approached the CTD over extortion calls, while others were not reporting such incidents due to fear of militants.
He said at least two people were killed and another injured in such TTP attacks, while five people lost vehicles and solar panels.
Mr Shahid said one of the complainants, Yasin, received a threatening call on WhatsApp from a Pakistani phone number demanding the payment of extortion to his employer, Haji Hameed, a contractor.
He said an FIR was registered at the CTD Mardan on Sept 16 and during investigations, the police arrested accused Faizullah, who turned out to be a cousin of TTP commander Bilal and retrieved data of threatening calls from his phone.
The official added that the forensic examination of the detainees’ phone revealed that the militants operated 10 WhatsApp groups from Afghanistan.
He said the militants made extortion calls on behalf of militant commander Bilal and that Faizullah worked as a facilitator for TTP commanders Qasim and Bilal.
The DIG said the pointation of Faizullah led to the arrest of Afghan national Saeedullah, who was currently based in Lahore’s Green Town area and provided “fake” SIM cards for extortion calls.
He added that police were investigating 71 Pakistani and 364 Afghan phone numbers registered in TTP groups.
Mr Shahid said the racket made extortion calls to a former Pakistani senator and MPA as well but both didn’t make any payment to it and instead, they reported those calls to police.
He said the network was mostly based in Mohmand tribal district and that law-enforcement agencies were unable to access records of the phone calls made from Afghanistan.
The official said the extortion money was being used for terror financing.
He said Pakistani authorities had the Afghan government on the matter under the mutual legal assistance through the ministry of foreign affairs.
Mr Shahid said the police had registered 73 extortion cases in the current year and arrested culprits in 55 of them.
Meanwhile, the CTD on Tuesday arrested four Afghan facilitators of the militant Islamic State-Khorasan group in Syphon Chowk area of Badhaber area here.
A CTD statement issued here identified Mohammad Rahim, Saleh Mohammad, Sahid and Raz Mohammad as detainees and revealed that they’re wanted in 10 cases of targeted killing of minority members and religious leaders as well as an attack on police personnel.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2023