LAHORE - In a major breakthrough, elite police personnel and intelligence operatives unearthed a terrorist compound just few kilometres from the prime minister’s Raiwind residence in Lahore suburbs.

An elite police commando died while two terrorists were gunned down in the operation launched in the Araiyan Pind at Raiwind Road after Wednesday midnight. “Three security personnel also sustained bullet wounds and were shifted to the Jinnah Hospital,” police said.

Security sources said the police and intelligence operatives carried out the joint raid soon after the earlier arrested accomplices of these militants disclosed to the investigators about the presence of the terrorists in the compound.

Okara District Police Officer, SSP Babar Bakhat Qureshi confirmed to The Nation that the joint operation was launched on the information provided by four militants arrested from Hujra Shah Muqeem.

Four days ago, Okara police arrested four accomplices of these terrorists. They were identified as Aashiq, Zulfiqar, Ejaz and Naeem, all residents of Hujra. Sources revealed that the dead terrorists belonged to Al-Qaeda and they also had links with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Some six months ago, the terrorists rented a two-storey house in Araiyan village, the locality from where the PM’s and CM’s motorcades move frequently. “Initial investigation reveals that the terrorists wanted to target the motorcades of the prime minister,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

The terrorists opened fire on the commandoes as they reached close to the compound after Wednesday midnight. One of the dead terrorists was identified as Ahsan Mehmood, said to be a resident of Okara district. The accomplices of Ahsan had disclosed to the investigators about his presence in the compound.

The terrorists used heavy and automatic weapons to target security personnel during the 10-hour-long fierce battle. A police officer said the terrorists fired two rockets too at them. The militants equipped with grenades, rocket launchers and explosive devices opened fire on security forces from inside the house. At least two blasts were heard during the early hours of the operation.

It was reliably learnt that one of the three terrorists was captured alive and he was shifted to an undisclosed location. However, the police neither confirmed nor disproved the arrest. In such operations, the personnel of the law enforcing agencies often conceal the arrests for security reasons.

Police sources disclosed to this scribe that the terrorists had been assigned the task to attack the motorcade of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Punjab minister for counter-terrorism department Shuja Khanzada told reporters at the site that the militants had plotted to target the PM’s residence in Jati Umra, Raiwind.

Police gave militants several warnings to surrender but they challenged the cops by opening indiscriminate gunfire. However, by Thursday noon the security officials managed to clear the two-storey house, located in the Firdous Colony of Araiyan village.

Later, police commandoes entered the house and taken positions on the rooftop. Before entering the compound, police fired many tears gas shells inside the compound. Dozens of police commandoes and security officials took part in the final phase of the operation as they tried to get inside the house.

Residents say that the strangers took the house on rent some six months ago. The house owner, identified as Dr Manzoor, was also taken into custody for interrogation. Police claimed that they recovered Kalashnikov rifles, hand grenades and bullets from the house.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has announced 10 million rupees compensation for the family of elite police force commando who died in the operation. The prime minister and the Punjab CM were kept informed minute-by-minute about the developing situation during the hours long operation.

Meanwhile, the police security has been intensified around the Sharif Medical City and PM’s residence in Raiwind. Police have also stepped up security for the family members of the PM and the CM. Both the top politicians have been advised to use helicopters and avoid unnecessary travel by road, an official added.