KARACHI, Jan 9: Nine persons, including two suspected Al Qaeda operatives, were picked up on Thursday by law enforcement agencies in a pre-dawn swoop at a house in Gulshan-i-Maymar.

An exchange of fire between the law enforcement agencies and occupants of the house was also reported. No one was injured, however.

A senior police officer said the two foreigners were of Arab origin, but he declined to specify their nationalities.

Sources, however, told Dawn that the names of the two suspects were Abu Hamza and Abu Umar, and they probably hailed from Yemen and Morocco.

The Inspector-General of the Sindh police, Syed Kamal Shah, told Dawn that acting on a tip-off provided by an intelligence outfit, two foreigners had been picked up from the house.

“The two have been handed over to an intelligence agency for interrogation,” the IG added.

Occupants of the house lobbed two grenades at the law enforcement personnel. One of the grenades exploded without causing any damage. The other did not explode.

The IG pleaded ignorance when asked whether the FBI participated in the raid.

Neighbours said just before Fajr prayers, they heard a deafening sound of gunfire coming from Shahid’s house.

A neighbour, Ali, told Dawn that he also heard a loud noise during the exchange of fire.

“The house was completely surrounded by personnel of law enforcement agencies, including police, Rangers and plain-clothes men,” he said.

Neighbours said a middle-aged man, Shahid Ali Khan, and his wife, Sabiha Shahid, lived in the house with their three children — Hasan, 11, Saira, 25 and Farooq, 28.

Also in the house were Saira’s two-year-old daughter and Shahid’s nephew Jawad, 12, and a housemaid, Naseem, aged 40. Except for Mrs Shahid, they were all picked up by police.

Sources said Sabiha Shahid, a former chief of the Jamaat-i-Islami’s women wing, was not present in the house at the time of the raid.

Sources said Shahid Ali Khan was a former national hockey player. Police officials were, however, tight-lipped about his background.

The sources said the family moved to the house six months back, probably from Azizabad or Dastigir.

A caretaker of a nearby mosque, who identified himself as Mohammedi, told Dawn that Mr Shahid was a regular visitor of the mosque.

He expressed ignorance about the presence of two foreigners in the house.

Another man from the neighbourhood said some persons did live on the first floor of the house but they were never seen outside the house.

This reporter saw some broken windowpanes with bullet holes.

Tubelights in the house were still on. Some vehicles, including a Suzuki FX car (K-7810), a motorcycle (KCZ-9848) and a Vespa Scooter (KCF-999) and a four-wheeler were also parked in the house.

There were visible signs that someone had tried to escape in a hurry from a window on the first floor of the house.

Sources close to the investigating team said that during the raid five grenades and three sub-machine-guns were also recovered from the house.

Meanwhile, in a simultaneous raid in Shah Faisal Colony, law enforcement agencies went to the house of Dr Akmal Waheed, former president of Pakistan Islamic Medical Association.

However, he was not present in the house at the time.

In a late night development, law enforcement agencies released the six family members and housemaid who returned to their Gulshan-i-Maymar residence.

Um-i-Akbar, mother of Ms Sabiha Shahid, told Dawn that entire family of her daughter was released late Thursday night.

She said that her grandson Farooq called her and confirmed their safe release.

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