LAHORE - The counter-terrorism department yesterday released a CCTV image of the handler behind Monday’s bombing on Lahore’s The Mall, as police heightened security at headquarters across the province.

Senior police officers are advised to keep their movement secret, use alternatives routes and avoid continuous use of the same route.

The provincial police Thursday issued the latest security advisory just hours after six commanders of the terror outfit, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, were killed in a shootout with police in the Punjab’s Khanewal district. The gun-battle took place late Wednesday night in the far-flung area as police intensify raids on terror hideouts amid massive security sweep.

The identification of the dead terrorists has not been ascertained but the CTD said they were members of the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban that asserted responsibility for the suicide attack in Lahore that left 14 people dead including seven police officers. It was not clear yet how the law enforcement agencies established their links with the outfit.

The police department yesterday issued a circular to the regional, district, and city police officers and directed them to ensure foolproof security arrangements for police officers, offices, and headquarters.

The letter says, “On 13.2.2017 in a brutal suicide bomb attack at Lahore, members of law enforcement agencies and general public have been targeted. Therefore, keeping in view the present day security situation and threat alerts, strict vigilance and heightened security measures should be adopted to avoid such incidents in future.”

According to the new instructions issued from the central police officer, the police are asked to park their vehicles at safe and secure place and the drivers should not leave the vehicles unattended.  

An official said that the police were asked to take unprecedented security measures since a massive operation was underway against terror suspects throughout the province. As part of the anti-terror campaign, a Multan CTD team gunned down six terrorists in Khanewal district late Wednesday night. A spokesman for the CTD said that they also seized two hand grenades, two assault rifles, and as many pistols from their possession.

Investigations were still underway to ascertain the identity of the militants who were killed in police operation in a village, Chack No 98/10-R.

Security and law-enforcement agencies are on high-alert in the province after the terror group claimed responsibility for the Lahore bomb attack. The same group, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, was behind the last year’s deadliest attack in Lahore; the suicide attack in a crowded park that killed 75 people in March.

On the other hand, more than 200 suspects are rounded up in the Punjab-wide crackdown as police launched search operations to hunt down suspected militants and their facilitators. Police in Lahore yesterday launched special search operations in the city’s downtown and arrested over 100 suspects. They were shifted to an unknown facility for further interrogation, a police spokesman said. Hundreds of police are taking part in the security sweep, he added. 

A senior official last night told The Nation that many special teams comprising counter-terror operatives and security officers launched a manhunt as investigators were probing into the Lahore blast.

According to police sources, many terror suspects are being interrogated in connection with the gruesome bomb attack. Police also seized arms and ammunition during the security sweep. Most of the arrests were made during pre-dawn raids in different districts of the Punjab province.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 17-Feb-2017 here.