LAHORE - Police on Friday said they arrested at least eight Taliban men who were planning suicide attacks in the Punjab province. A traffic police warden was also among those arrested on the charges of plotting high-profile attacks on important personalities and sensitive installations in Lahore.
The police seized two suicide vests, 20-kg explosive material, automatic weapons and laptops from their hideout during the raid.
“They had marked their targets while 33 important personalities were on their hit list,” Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Chaudhry Shafique Ahmed told reporters at a news conference at Police Headquarters Qila Gujjar Singh on Friday.
On this occasion, police produced the eight young men, with their faces covered in black hoods, before the media. They were identified as Muhammad Azam, Muhammad Shafique Shah, Saqib Anjum, Ubaid Ullah, Muhammad Aftab, Qari Mushtaq, Hafiz Azeem and Qari Asif. All the accused are the residents of Lahore.
Flanked by DIG (Operations) Rana Abdul Jabbar, DIG (Investigations) Zulfikar Hameed and CIA’s Umer Virk, the police chief termed the operation a big success of the law-enforcing agency. “It was a deadly squad. We have thwarted their designs by taking timely action,” the CCPO said.
The police teams displayed extreme professionalism. The investigators connected many dots and successfully apprehended the militants after collecting concrete information, he added. A couple of weeks ago, the 26-year-old traffic warden had been picked up by the law-enforcing agencies when he was on duty at a traffic signal in Lahore. According to the police chief, he was interrogated by a joint investigation team for several days. During the course of investigation, the traffic warden confessed that he had links with the banned outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP.) The warden is said to be the son of a police inspector.
The arrested militants had planned gun attacks to target leading religious leaders, journalists, lawyers and senior police officers. During the investigation, the accused admitted that they had planned gun and bomb attacks to target the participants of Punjab Youth Festival at the Punjab University. The district government had cancelled the national anthem ceremony after intelligence inputs revealed militants’ designs. The militants were also in touch with their handlers in Afghanistan by using special codes through computers. “They wanted bloodshed by creating anarchy in the society to destabilise the country,” the Lahore police chief said. “We have taken security measures to protect the personalities who were on the militants’ hit list,” he added.
The police released the names of the important persons on the Taliban’s killing list. Among them are Asma Jahangir, Syeda Abida Hussain, Alhaaj Haider Ali Mirza, Dr Khadim Hussain Dhilon, Mohsin Naqvi, Salim Bokhari, Fahad Hussain, Dr Muhammad Malik, Hassan Nisar, Tayyaba Khanum, Allama Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi and Abdul Khubair. Even Qawal Sher Mian Dad was on the list of the militants.
Responding to a question about the genuineness of the alleged shootout in Badami Bagh, which left four dacoits dead a few days ago, he said the police high command did not believe in fake encounters.
He made it clear that any policeman found involved in such a practice would not be spared. A judicial inquiry is ordered after each encounter to cross-check the genuineness of the armed encounter, he added.