Lahore - A most-wanted gang leader and his brother were shot and killed in a commando-style operation in the insurgency-hit Kacha area of Rajanpur district, officials told The Nation yesterday.

Hundreds of police and paramilitary troops last week launched a large-scale offensive to target criminals and militants hiding alongside the riverine-belt, bordering Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

The district police yesterday named the dead as Ali Bazgeer and his brother Pindi, who had a stronghold in the riverine area.

The Kacha area in the Rojhan Tehsil is located on the Indus River, bordering Sindh and Balochistan provinces. The region which is spread over 30 kilometres on the edge of the Punjab province was a “no-go area” for the police since many years. Police penetration or movement becomes very difficult in this area which comprises thick jungle and hilly tracks alongside the River Indus.

The police and the personnel of Punjab Rangers are fighting on the frontline in the complicated terrain where heavily-armed criminals use boats to flee towards the jungle and nearby hills during the night hours.

A police officer said the “use of gunship helicopters” in this operation would definitely help police commandoes fight criminals precisely and effectively.

Rajanpur district police officer, Ghulam Mubashir Mekan confirmed to The Nation that a key gang-leader and his brother were shot and killed during a “commando-style” operation.

“We are sure that another three members of this gang were also shot and wounded by police officials. However, they fled with bullet injuries,” the officer said.

He said the district police had confirmed the death of the ringleader and his brother to the media only after rechecking this information from multiple sources.

According to Mekan, the criminals use multiple ways and routes to flee police actions. Therefore, he said, the use of boats has been banned in some parts of the riverine on the Indus River.

Replying to a question, he said the police and paramilitary troops were involved in ground operations and, “So far, neither the gunship helicopters were used in the operation nor anybody discussed this option at any stage.”

However, he said, “We need this (gunship helicopters) because the terrain is very difficult and complicated to reach”.

To a question, he said no arrest was made during the security operation yesterday. “We will take this fight to its logical end. Either these criminals will be killed or captured,” the district police officer said.

Law enforcement agencies Saturday made announcements among local population alongside the bank of Indus river in Rojhan Tehsil to move out to safer places to minimise collateral damage as they prepared for a full fledge ground operation against the militants and gangsters.

However, the families are unwilling to leave the area. “We made announcements (by using loudspeakers) and contacted the relatives of the dacoits but none of them approached (police or district administration) for evacuation,” said police official Mekan.

According to a press statement issued from the central police office yesterday, Bazgeer and his brother Pindi were wanted to the law enforcement agencies in as many as 19 criminal cases.

They were the active members of Ishaq Jhangvani and Khalid Kajlani gangs. Police said the same gangsters had abducted for ransom dozens of people including government officers in 2013. The victims including the then EDO (Health) DG Khan district had secured their release after paying huge ransom to these gang leaders.

Bazgeer and his brother were working for notorious Choto gang since many years, police record reveals.

A police officer described the gangsters’ killings as the biggest achievement since the security operation was launched in the Southern Punjab.

Apart from 1600 police, dozens of personnel of the Punjab Rangers and counter-terrorism department are taking part in the joint security operations. Over one hundred facilitators of these criminals have been arrested since last week. They are being interrogated by intelligence operatives and police investigators at unknown places.

A senior official said the facilitators were being grilled to extract maximum information about the criminals and militants hiding in the hills and the jungle nearby. He claimed they got some important leads during interrogation of the facilitators.

Following the Lahore blast, the police and the troops launched one of the biggest security operations in the Southern Punjab to clear the complicated terrain from militants, criminals, and their facilitators.

Earlier, the police had successfully cordoned off the entire area of “Kacha” including the areas bordering the Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

Hundreds of temporary checkpoints are set up for monitoring the movement of the suspected militants. Similarly, the adjacent river ways have also been cordoned off to restrict the movement of suspected elements.