16 Al Qaeda suspects released

Published April 1, 2002

FAISALABAD, March 31: Sixteen of the 46 people arrested here on Thursday for their alleged links with Al Qaeda were freed on Sunday.

Blindfolded, they were dropped outside their houses by their escorts, stated to be commandos. When they were picked up along with 16 foreigners, mostly Arabs, they were blindfolded and driven to Lahore on way to an unknown destination for interrogation.

Among those released on Sunday were Prof Mohammad Akram Niazi of Government College, Faisalabad, his sons Zia Ikram Niazi, Rizwan Niazi, nephew Hamad Niazi and brother Hameedullah Niazi, also a teacher.

They were rounded up from their two-storey house in Muslim Town. Rizwan Niazi who was married about a fortnight ago was stated to be an activist of Lashkar-i-Tayyaba.

Prof Akram Niazi’s tenants housed in the upper-storey were also freed. They were identified as Abdul Majeed (45), Tayyab (20), Bilal (18), Shahid (18) and Jamal Ahmed (16).

Engineer Mohammad Sohail, Niazi’s neighbour, was also dropped outside his house. He was arrested when he came out with a gun after hearing alarms during Thursday’s operation.

Sarfraz, Anwar, Abid and Shahid rounded up from Mansoorabad were also released.

Talking to Dawn on the condition of anonymity, some of the released persons said the raiding teams shifted them to some unknown place immediately after their arrest in police vans.

Kept separately, they were interrogated by police and some foreigners assisted by interpreters. They were extensively asked questions about any information or link with any person in connection with Sept 11 attacks, kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl, Al Qaeda members, training in Afghanistan at Taliban centres, collection of funds for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, supply of arms, providing shelter to Jihadis.

Their statements were recorded a number of times by various teams. They were also shown a number of photographs of various persons, including some Arabs, and asked questions. They said none of the interrogators tortured them.

Their belongings, including passports, mobile phones, family albums seized on Thursday were not returned.

Haji Nisar Ahmed and his sons Rashid and Sajid, who were released after some hours of the raid on Thursday, told this correspondent that all their efforts to recover ‘valuables’ picked by the raiding team proved futile because none of the officials of local police was taking responsibility of the raid.

Still over a dozen local residents are in the custody of the special investigation team.

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