KARACHI - The military says it has busted the biggest nexus of terrorists in Karachi and foiled a prison break bid aimed at freeing British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, currently on death row for the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The top military spokesman said yesterday that the law enforcers have arrested in Karachi a group of 97 militants belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) which was operating in collusion with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The arrested terrorists, including three high profile militant leaders, were involved in major terrorist attacks in the country between 2009 and 2015, ISPR Director General Lt-Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa told a media briefing. Around 26 of them carried head money.
The broken militant network was now working on the plot to attack Hyderabad Central Jail to free Omar Sheikh and another terrorist jailed for involvement in attack on the Karachi Corps Commander several years ago, Bajwa said. The plan was close to execution, he claimed.
"A deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in the Subcontinent named Mussanah was mastermind of the plan and was arranging all the finances while he was aided by the deputy chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Naeem Bukhari."
Bokhari and Sabir Khan of LeJ and Muhammad Farooq Bhatti alias Mussanah, who were later paraded before the media in handcuffs, were captured by Pakistani forces in recent raids, Bajwa said, declining to give details of the raids and their timing. Another man said to be their handler, named Huzaifa, is still at large and believed to hide in Afghanistan, he added.
He said that the terrorists got a house on rent in Latifabad area of Hyderabad with the help of some facilitators from where they were planning the jailbreak. The perpetrators had prepared two explosive-laden vehicles which they were supposed to ram into the gate of the prison, he added.
Bajwa said the plotters also had a list of 35 prisoners that they were supposed to kill after gaining access to the jail, while rescuing around 100 prisoners including Sheikh. A police constable who was abetting these terrorists has been arrested.
He said the same cell was behind major terrorist incidents across the country including the 2014 siege of Karachi airport, Kamra air base raid and attacks on naval base, ISI base in Sukkur and various police installations. They were also behind Karachi jail break attempt as well as assassination of DSP Chaudhry Aslam, a brave officer who played key role in anti-terrorism efforts in Karachi.
The Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) recovered steel balls, suicide jackets, explosives grinding machine, SMGs, IEDs, detonating cords, loaded magazines, 350 Kg explosive material and chemicals-weapons from the hideout in Haiderabad.
These items were transported through buses and rails by hiding them in washing machines. Backpacks of ammunition, ration, medicines, police uniforms, cell phones, laptops and EVO device for clandestine communication were also recovered from their hideout.
Gen Bajwa also showed a jail map and sketch used by the terrorists in planning the jailbreak and movie clip showing the hideout, weapons, logistics and the recce done by the militants. He said the top leader of Al-Qaeda in the Sub continent was also in Afghanistan.
Talking about Karachi operation, which commenced in Sept 2013 at a time when high crime was at its peak in the city, he said target killing has declined by 70 percent since the launch of operation. He added that 85 percent decrease has been witnessed in incidents of extortion and 90 percent decrease in kidnapping for ransom cases.
Gen Bajwa said during the operation over 12,000 people were arrested in more than 7,000 raids conducted by Rangers, out of which 6,000 people were handed over to police.
Saying that the numbers of terror incidents in Karachi has been cut down drastically, he appealed to the citizens to be aware of their surroundings so as not to become a tool or accessory to any terrorist activity. He said that more work needed to be done to completely rid the metropolis of violence and terrorism.
As part of Zarb-e-Azb, he said, all terrorist sanctuaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have been wiped out all with the exception of a few pockets alongside Pak-Afghan border.
Responding to a question, ISPR DG said that the presence of military personnel in urban centres was not unique to Pakistan as troops in combat gear can be seen in all civilised societies including the United States and Italy.
“There is a shift in the deployment of security around the whole world... These military personnel are there for your own security - many have died in service of this nation," he added.
Pakistan says it has busted the biggest nexus of terrorists in Karachi and foiled a prison break bid aimed at freeing British-born militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, currently on death row for the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Agencies add: Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an Islamist group whose sectarian ideology is closely aligned with Islamic State, as it wants to kill or expel Pakistan's minority Shias and establish a Sunni theocracy.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was formed by global al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri in September 2014, and is one of dozens of Islamist militant groups, some aligned against Pakistan and others against its neighbours, that operate in the country.
As for Daniel Pearl, the 38-year-old American was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002, while researching a story about Islamist militants. A graphic video showing Pearl's decapitation was delivered to the US consulate in the city nearly a month later.
British-born extremist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to death by an anti-terror court, while three other co-accused received life imprisonment. One of them was acquitted in 2014.
In January 2011, a report released by the Pearl Project at Georgetown University in the US following an investigation into his death made chilling revelations when it claimed that the wrong men were convicted for Pearl's murder.
The investigation, led by Pearl's friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague Asra Nomani and a Georgetown University professor, claimed the reporter was murdered by Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the alleged brains behind the September 11 2001 attacks, not Omar Sheikh.
Self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan in 2003 and is being held in Guantanamo Bay.