LAHORE - The Punjab government Tuesday claimed to have smashed a terror gang by nailing its five members near Shahdara in Lahore.

According to the government, the detainees confessed to unleashing attacks on Model Town investigation police in 2010, Qila Gujjar Singh Police Lines on February 17, 2015 and Youhanabad churches on March 15.

Punjab Home Minister Col (r) Shuja Khanzada made these claims during a press conference. Flanked by Capital City Police Officer Amin Wains and Additional IG Arif Mushtaq, the home minister said the arrested also planned to target politicians, servicemen and sensitive installations in Lahore and Karachi.

He said their other three accomplices fled to Afghanistan. The arrested were named as Sanaullah alias Hassan Punjabi, Waqas, Imran Mahsud, Sheikh Qanoon and Iraruddin

“Sana and Waqas are from Bahawalnagar while the other three are from Waziristan. They were settled in Karachi,” the minister said.

He said they had links with Aghan Taliban and got terror training in Afghanistan. Moreover, he said they were funded by Indian agencies. The network was also working for Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban, he mentioned.

Three of the escapees were named as Rana Majeed, Qari Ilyas alias Abu Bakar and Khalid Zaman alias Taj Ali absconded to Afghanistan. Since the ISI and Afghanistan’s intelligence agency are in strong liaison for intelligence sharing and the absconding terrorists of the network would soon be arrested, he hoped.

He said the lawmen, backed by the Army, launched the operation under the National Action Plan.

The minister said the Youhanabad terrorists attack was planned in Afghanistan to stoke religious strife. Qari Ilyas and Khalid Zaman came to Pakistan and held meetings with Sanaullah near Tablighi Markaz.

Sana is specialist of making suicide jackets while Imran Mahsud and Iraruddin mostly facilitate him. Waqas provided his CNIC for getting room on rent near Youhana Abad where they all were hiding and the jackets were manufactured.

On March 15, 2015, the suicide bombers were armed in Amar Sidhu area of Lahore and from where they were brought to Youhanaabad. The media persons were shown video recording of the confessional statement of Sanaullah Punjabi.

To a question, Khanzada said, five suicide bombers were killed in the three suicide attacks by this network in Lahore.

Seventeen people died as a result of the suicide bombings in the Youhanabad district of Lahore, with more than 70 wounded.

The bombings occurred during prayers at two churches located around half a kilometre apart in the city's Youhanabad neighbourhood, which is home to more than 100,000 Christians, officials said.

Two men were later lynched by an angry mob who suspected they were militants.

The attack also sparked two days of rioting by thousands of Christians who clashed with police, blocked roads and forced a partial shutdown of the city's public bus system.

Anti-terror operation: The police are going to launch a massive crackdown on criminals, terrorists, and their facilitators in the Punjab province, officials said.

The decision was taken during the Regional Police Officers’ conference held at the central police office through video linkage, a spokesperson said.

Security will also remain on high-alert across the province where police will continue search operations against the suspected elements.

“All government officers and officials are strictly directed to follow the given security guidelines since they are on the hit-list of terrorist,” the spokesperson says.

Punjab police chief Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera chaired the conference while several senior officers were also present on this occasion.

The police are directed to step up snap-checking particularly of vehicles having unauthorised blue-lights or green number plates and tinted glasses. It was further decided in the meeting that “a serious crack down against the facilitators of hardened criminals and terrorists will be launched in the province.”

The field officers were directed to strictly implement the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the security of minorities and their worship places.