ABBOTTABAD - The involvement of runaway militants, who had moved from Abbottabad’s mountainous areas to the northwestern tribal terrain after security forces had launched crackdown in the post-OBL operation scenario, is suspected in the rockets attack on PMA - a development seen as linked to Al-Qaeda operative’s killing in a drone strike.

Nearly after nine months of calm, fear revisited the cantonment city on Friday following the launch of nine rockets directed at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), three of which damaged a part of its outer wall. While Abbottabad police’s top brass is clueless, official sources point to the involvement of those militants in the incident, who had abandoned their hideouts located in the city’s remote hilly belt to avoid being hunt down after Osama bin Laden’s killing. Just a day earlier on Thursday, the Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had visited Abbottabad to attend an official ceremony organised by Frontier Force Regiment (FFR), whose offices are situated some three kilometres away from the PMA. The intelligence agencies, it is learnt, had cautioned the security forces that a red colour Toyota double-cabin jeep could be used in any untoward activity ahead of General Kayani’s visit. Any further details to this effect are not known.

Sources privy to the investigation say the possible linkages between the reported killing of Aslam Awan, an Al-Qaeda operative in a drone attack in North Waziristan, and the PMA attack were being probed. Awan, who hailed from Abbottabad, was reportedly targeted on this month’s 10th. 

Talking to TheNation, District Police Officer (DPO), Abbottabad, Karim Khan said the matter regarding the suspected involvement of militants in the rockets attack was being probed. “We would share our findings with the press soon. It would be premature jumping to conclusions before the completion of investigation.” Without specifying any number, the DPO said that several people were nabbed in connection with Friday’s attack.

Scores of militants along with their families had made Abbotabad’s Jhangi Syedan and related mountain terrain their save havens in the recent years. This newspaper had unearthed their presence during course of follow-up reporting on OBL operation in May last year. Several of these militants included the breakaway factions of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who had revolted against the TTP central leadership and parted ways. The prominent among them were the slain Qari Zainuddin Mehsud and his accomplices. Mehsud’s family was living in Jhangi Syedan mountain just a few kilometres away from Abbottabad city. On May 17, The Nation had broken the story regarding arrests of two cousins and a brother of Zainuddin Mehsud from that area who were respectively identified as Ali Shaban Mehsud, Qari Zaryab Mehsud and Abdullah Khan. Later, the DPO Abbottabad had confirmed this development.

Following crackdowns, the militants had reportedly moved to Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Aurakzai and Mohmand Agencies but wwing to the launch of military operations in tribal areas, some militant factions are reportedly trying to relocate to Abbottabad’s remote belt.  The Nawashehr mountain could be an easy launching pad for miscreants possibly because it has close proximity to Thandiani, a hilly range of Abbottabad district where security surveillance is minimum. Thandiani mountains connect to Muzzaffarabad, Galiyat and Upper Hazara that comprises significant tribal population. The PMA boundary wall faces the posh areas of Jinnahabad Township, Habibullah Colony and Bilal Town at three sides while the fourth one that was targeted, was exposed to Kakul village, located closely to Nawashehr mountain-a less secured area.