The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) on Friday claimed it had arrested two suicide bombers, allegedly involved in planning an attack on JUI-F Chief Fazlur Rehman and Awami National Party’s Aimal Wali Khan.

In an official statement, the CTD said Peshawar was “saved from a major catastrophe” with the arrest of the two Afghanistan-trained militants.

According to CTD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) (Operations) Najamul Hasnain Liaquat, the suspects were nabbed during an intelligence-based operation in Peshawar. Two suicide vests, three hand grenades and a pistol were recovered from them, he said.

SSP Liaquat said the suspects were members of the militant Islamic State Khorasan and received their training in Afghanistan’s Paktia province. He added that one was arrested from Peshawar’s Matni area and the other from the Achini area.

“[The] arrested terrorists confessed to planning suicide attacks on Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Aimal Wali,” the official said, adding that the two also scoped out Mufti Mahmood Markaz, the JUI-F’s provincial headquarters.

Last month, the interior ministry had written letters to chief secretaries and inspector general of police, warning that there were serious threats to the lives of Fazl and Aimal.

“It is requested that extreme caution and vigilance is exercised and necessary security arrangements are made at their [Fazl and Aimal’s] residences and during movement and public gatherings to avert any untoward incident,” it had said.

Earlier this month, Dera Ismail Khan police had warned Fazl’s son Maulana Asad Mahmood of a possible terrorist attack and advised him to restrict his movement.

Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in terror activities in recent months, especially in KP and Balochistan after the banned militant Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan had ended its ceasefire with the government in November 2022.

Last month, the KP CTD had stressed the need for improved security across the province, especially in the areas bordering Afghanistan, for the Feb 8 general elections.

“This entire province is an area of concern for us, so improvement in the security situation is required for the upcoming polls. The Category ‘A’ security [enhanced security measures] has to be ensured in areas close to Pak-Afghan border,” CTD Deputy Inspector General Imran Shahid had told reporters.

According to data released by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, the country experienced a 34 per cent increase in anti-state violence in November. It showed KP as the most affected province, documenting 51 attacks, causing 54 fatalities and 81 injuries.

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