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Cellphones silenced for 8 hours in Karachi, Quetta

November 16, 2012

KARACHI, Nov 16: The government on Friday night restored cellphone networks shut down for eight hours in Karachi and Quetta to prevent terror attacks at the start of the holy month of Muharram, officials said.

Security was beefed up across the country on Friday, the first day of Muharram, with officials fearing sectarian attacks during the month.

Mobile phone networks remained closed for eight hours from 10am in Karachi and Quetta, gripped by political and sectarian violence.

“The mobile phone services have been restored now in Karachi and Quetta,” said Ali Faysal, a senior official of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

Javed Odho, a senior police official in Karachi earlier told AFP that “police had intelligence reports about (the) possibility of a very big terrorist attack in Karachi and it was because of this reason that the mobile phone service was shut down”.

“It is a preventative measure taken to effectively counter (the) terrorism threat,” he said.

Mr Odho said the decision was taken after top police officials held lengthy meetings. “Pros outweighed cons. This was the only effective way to block conversation of terrorists, who use mobile phones to plan attacks,” he said.

Authorities feared that mobile phones could be used to coordinate attacks or trigger a remote-controlled bomb.

Mr Odho said thousands of policemen had been deployed all over Karachi to perform duties alongside the Rangers.

Akbar Durrani, home secretary of Balochistan, on Friday warned of a serious security threat, especially during the first 10 days of Muharram.

“At least eight provincial districts have been declared sensitive and the army troops will be on call to deal with any untoward situation,” Mr Durrani said.

Police in Punjab arrested two suspected terrorists in Gujrat who had been planning attacks during Muharram, provincial police chief Haji Habibur Rehman told a news conference in Lahore on Friday.

Police detained Shafiq Ahmed, 45, and his son Abdul Rehman, 17, who had links with the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Five suicide vests, hand grenades and Kalashnikov rifles were recovered in a raid on their house.

They were accused of involvement in a number of terrorist activities, including an attack at the PAF base in Kamra in August this year, Mr Rehman said.

During interrogation they confessed “they had plans to launch attacks on security forces and religious gatherings of Shia community,” he said.—AFP