Karachi’s top bomb-maker is dead

Counterterrorism Department deals major blow to Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent 


By: Naimat Khan

On April 13, the Counter Terrorism Department of Karachi killed two members of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) in a gunfight in the Gadap Town locality, and seized weapons, explosives and equipment from a bomb factory that they unearthed.  Abdul Saboor and Muhammad Mujtaba died during the encounter, while Muhammad Murtaza was arrested.

During interrogation, Murtaza made some startling revelations.

“About 14 years ago, some militants from the Nazimabad neighborhood of Karachi parted ways with their organization Harkatul Mujahideen following a dispute. They renamed themselves Harkatul Mujahideen al Alami (HUMA), and orchestrated attacks on security forces, diplomatic missions and other targets of global importance,” according to Raja Umar Khattab, a senior cop fighting militancy and terrorism for more than 15 years.

In 2004, HUMA militants rented a shop in an apartment building in the city, and parked a van packed with 400 kilograms of explosives outside the premises to target the convoy of then president Gen Pervez Musharraf. The bomb couldn’t go off because of signal jammers, and the convoy passed safely.

It was the first group to use toy bombs

“The failed plan went unnoticed. The same van was later used in an attack on the American consulate in Karachi,” Raja Umar Khattab told me. The same year, the group orchestrated a bomb attack on a concert by the Indian vocalist Sonu Nigam in the port city. Then, they tried to target Americans staying at the airport hotel in a rocket attack, but the rockets went wayward and fell in Shah Faisal Colony.

HUMA was the first group to come up with toy bombs. The first such device was seized after an encounter with the police in the Kalakot area of the city.

By the end of 2008, most of the members of the group had been apprehended, and their plan to break Karachi’s central prison had been thwarted.

But because of weak prosecution and a lack of evidence, many of these militants were freed. Most of them fled to Afghanistan, where the group’s first chief Muhammad Imran, also known as Imran Bhai, was killed in a US drone strike.

Kamran Atif, the chief of the group’s Karachi chapter, was arrested in 2006 and served a life sentence.

In 2014, the militants associated with HUMA joined the AQIS en masse and took over its Pakistan branch. Their first emir is identified as Zarar, and also known by the names Naseem Bhai, Hanif Bhai and Ayub Bhai. He is stationed in Afghanistan, from where he directs the organization’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi chapters. “HUMA is the face of AQIS in Pakistan,” said Raja Umar Khattab.

Recent acts of terrorism in Karachi linked to the group include the murder of Dr Shakeel Auj and Urdu Blogger Aneeqa Naz, police say.

The AQIS Pakistan has three major wings, investigations have revealed.

One group, responsible for preaching, brainwashing and recruitment, consists of young people who have never been arrested and live normal lives at their homes in Karachi. They are hard to catch, police say, but stopping them is vital for eliminating the terrorist organization.

A second wing participates in militant activity. Most of its members are locals of Karachi, and people of Bengali and Burmese descent who have been born in the city.

The third wing consists solely of experts in manufacturing and planting bombs. Among its key members were a man identified as Hashim (nicknamed Babu) and another militant identified as Muhammad Mujtaba (also known as Rehan). The two men had arrived in Karachi as explosives experts for the group. Hashim, who had 14 years of experience in bombs and explosives, especially car bombs, was killed in a gunfight with police in April last year. Mujtaba – who had put together the bomb manufacturing setup in Gadap town and supplied explosive devices to one Abdus Salam Sindhi of the Liaquatabad neighborhood – was killed in the April 13 encounter.

In January 2016, the group resumed its activities using low-intensity bombs, referred to as crackers. Law enforcement agencies began to notice similarities between various blasts, and investigations led them to the two men killed on April 13.

The AQIS is a distinct organization, separate from another Al Qaeda group in Karachi, and the group of young militants in Karachi who are inspired by ISIS, according to Raja Umar Khattab.

An independent Al Qaeda group led by Umar Jalal began its own journey about the time AQIS was formed. A third IS-inspired group of youth, which attacked American professor Debra Lobo, killed human rights activists Sabeen Mahmud, and carried out the Safoora bus shooting, is a separate entity.

The AQIS is directed by Al Qaeda’s central leadership from Afghanistan’s Bramcha area, according to police. But heightened security at the border has made it very difficult, if not impossible, for the network in Karachi to communicate with the Bramcha leadership, Raja Umar Khattab said. “They are now using memory cards, USB flash drives, and unsent draft emails for passing on messages to the network in Karachi,” the arrested man told the investigators. Police believes the killing of Mujtaba is a major breakthrough, but analysts say it may not be enough to eliminate the group.

“To counter transitional militants, such as those involved with the AQIS, the government should form a serious counterterrorism strategy,” says Zia Ur Rehman, a Karachi based author and security analyst. “Identifying and distinguishing such militants is a proper intelligence-gathering exercise, which need strong collaboration among all law enforcement and intelligence agencies.”

For decades, groups like Harkatul Mujahideen have been allowed to change their names and reconstitute themselves, without any reprisal from the government, experts say, and that is where the problem lies.

“As they reconstitute, they look for new friends and allies. Al Qaeda and IS are the easiest choices in today’s plethora of militant groups,” says Khalid Muhammad, the director general of Islamabad-based think tank CommandEleven.

He says weak prosecution is another problem. Tahir Mihnas, the prime suspect of the Safoora carnage, and almost all the current leaders of AQIS including its Pakistani chief, were arrested in the past but have come out of jails.

“A report issued by the US State Department a few years ago discussed this exact issue – the release of hardcore terrorists from Pakistani jails,” says Khalid Muhammad. The report stated that Pakistan’s judiciary had released three out of four terrorism suspects that were brought to courts. “The reasons included loss of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, and fear of violence against the judge and his family.”

Zia Ur Rehman says it is hard to predict if military courts will solve these problems. “Only time will tell.”

 Published in The Friday Times 

Why did Mullah Akhtar Mansour choose Karachi as his residence?

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“Karachi, with its large businesses, moneyed residents and huge Pashtun population, has proved fertile ground not only for the Pakistani Taliban, but also for the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda” reads a report title “ exposing the Karachi-Afghanistan link” by Zia ur Rehman, Karachi based researcher and Journalist.

By Naimat Khan

KARACHI: A frequent flyer and recurrent visitor, the actual stay of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, in Karachi is hard to be known, however, the seaside Pakistani metropolis had been ‘favorable residence’ for the Afghan Taliban over past so many years, security analysts say.

The Taliban Chief was killed in American drone strike on Saturday in restive Balochistan province, the White House confirmed on Monday.

Later, a Pakistani Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) and passport of Wali Muhammad – identified by US authorities as Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the Afghan Taliban Chief – showed the victim of drone attack was permanent resident of Balochistan’s Qilla Abdullah, who was currently resided in Karachi’s Gulizar-e-Hijri area where he also owned an apartment.

When contacted by The Frontier Post a day earlier, Maulana Ghayas, chief cleric of the adjacent mosque and JUI-F leader, who is believed to have maintained close relationships with Afghan Taliban, said no person named Wali Muhammad or the one shown on TV screens was known to him.

But Nadra record confirms that Wali Muhammad was current resident of Karachi’s Bismillah Apartment, where he owned Flat Number B-016.

A local elder Jehanzeb Burki says that the Gulzar-e-Hijri was a perfect ‘house’ for the Taliban leader because despite being a mix neighborhood it was not a strange place for the people wearing same outfits as that of the person believed to be Taliban leader.

“Wali Muhammad had both Karachi and Balochistan connections – having Balochistan as his permanent whereas Karachi current residence on his CNIC – which many people in area do have,” Burki said.

“Even if he had lived here he would have hardly been recognized,” Burki believes, adding that many people of Afghan Taliban have taken refuge in the area for getting medical treatment in Karachi in the past.

“Karachi, with its large businesses, moneyed residents and huge Pashtun population, has proved fertile ground not only for the Pakistani Taliban, but also for the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda” reads a report title “ exposing the Karachi-Afghanistan link” by Zia ur Rehman.

According to Rehman, the arrests of high-profile Afghan Taliban leaders in Karachi in the past have corroborated the reports that the Afghan Taliban is using Karachi as an organizational hub, and for hideouts and rest and recuperation.

“Mullah Abdul Ghani Biradar, the second-in-command to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, was arrested in Karachi in February 2010 in a joint raid by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence agencies,” he said.

According to a report in ‘Fox news’ Pakistani authorities had arrested Akhunzada Popalzai, also known as Mohammad Younis, a former Taliban shadow governor in Zabul and former police chief in Kabul, Ameer Muawiya, the Afghan Taliban’s liaison officer for al-Qaeda militants and Abu Hamza, who served as a former Afghan army commander in Helmand province from Karachi.

In august 2011 Agha Jan, the Afghan Taliban’s former finance minister was wounded in an attack in Karachi.  According to Rehman,  Mullah Jalil, former Afghan deputy foreign minister and a lieutenant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, along with two of his close Afghan associates, was also arrested somewhere in Karachi in 2004.

According to the report Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the former Taliban defence minister had visited Karachi to meet his relatives a week before his arrest in Quetta in March 2007.

Akhund later died of cardiac arrest in a Karachi jail on March 5th 2010.

“According to Afghan tribal elders, all three key factions of the Afghan Taliban – the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Omar; the Haqqani Network, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani; and Hizb-i-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar – operate in Karachi. However, Quetta Shura-linked Afghan militants have the largest presence in the city”, the report reads.

Over the past few years members of the Quetta Shura have been reported to be relocating to Karachi to avoid potential U.S. airstrikes, Rehman adds.

There were also rumors of Mullah Omar’s presence in Karachi and some section of press reported that he had breathed last in Karachi’s hospital, though such reports couldn’t be verified.

Published In The Frontier Post 

“No go area” for others, PSP conquers ANP fortress 


“Sohrab Goth and its adjacent areas were strategically very important for the ANP, as on the direction of party command, the members had capacity to block Super Highway within five minutes, disconnecting the city from the rest of the country”,

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: A man with AK-47 roams around main gate of ‘Gulshan View’ apartment whereas Deen Muhammad Wazir tells about the threats workers of Awami National Party are facing.

It’s one of the January 2013 evenings when this scribe was doing a story on Taliban’s presence in Karachi.

Red flags would wave on the main gate and throughout the apartment, which was ‘unofficial’ headquarters in ANP’s stronghold, where Deen Muhammad Wazir would regularly sit alongwith other two of “DIT” – Ismail and Tariq Tareen.

Wazir’s worries regarding open threats to his life proved real by the end of the year when Taliban gunned him down near Janjal Goth on December 2, 2013.

In the coming years Tariq Tareen emerged as sole force of Al Asif Square, Sohrab Goth, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Rabia city and Mekasa apartment.

No Go area for rivals

“With most powerful men from Pakhtun Student Federation (PkSP) reining the area, it had become a ‘no go area’ for rivals of ANP, including MQM, JI, PTI and JUI-F, who couldn’t dare to hold a rally or organize any political activity here,” recalls *Ayub Dawar, a shopkeeper and worker of ANP.

Dawar remembers the day when ANP and MQM workers would fight with each others for controlling most of Abdul Hasan Isfahani road, forcing the then Town Nazim of MQM – Wasay Jalil, who is now MQM’s central leader – to strike a written agreement with Gulshan-e-View boys.

According to the agreement, Dawar informs, the MQM workers couldn’t cross the bridge in front of famous Bara Market, which is situated few yards away from Abbas Town. Jalil, despite several attempts to reach him, was not available for comment.

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Deen Muhammad Wazir, who was killed by Taliban in Dec 2013, in Janjal Goth, Karachi

Change of regime

Though still the posters of ‘Shah Kalam Shaheed’ and ‘Deen Muhammad Wazir Shaheed’ hang at the entrance of ‘Gulshan View’ and red flags have been replaced with Pakistani flags – also flags of Mustafa Kamal’s newly launched party. The name of Pak Sarzameen Party has also been inscribed at the main entrance.

Tariq Tareen
Tariq Tareen ( TT) who recently joined Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party

At right side of the apartments local chief of ANP Umar Badshah Mehsud has setup a stall to campaign for the May 12 to remember the day when dozens of ANP workers on their way to Jinnah International Airport to greet the then deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry were bathed in blood by rival party.

Inside stall few of the ANP workers are sitting. “As we are going to mourn the deaths of our fateful fellow workers, Shahi Syed is holding Valima Ceremony of his son in Islamabad,” a disgruntled ANP worker complained.

‘Dry cleaned’

Tariq Tareen alongwith several workers of ANP and PSF announced to join the Mustafa Kamal’s Pak Sarzameen Party in its debut public gathering held at Bagh-e-Jinnah, Karachi on April 24, 2016.

A local ANP worker and former comrade of Tariq Tareen (TT) told this scribe that like many MQM’s tented workers, TT found it good opportunity to get ‘dry cleaned’ at Mustafa Kamal’s Defence laundry.

“Tareen who “manages” some 370 flats in different apartments is still ruling alongwith Deen Muhammad Wazir’s nephew Sultan Wazir the areas of Rabia City, Jauhar, Micasa Luxury Apartment and Al-Asif Square,” he said. Wazir hasn’t left ANP yet but it’s Tareen who has say in everything, a worker said.

“When Tareen was picked up by Rangers in 2013 people took to streets and burnt vehicles, carts and tyres near Rabia City in Gulistan-e-Jauhar, showing his influence in the area,” he recalls, adding Tareen would also help PSP to gain ground in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Sohrab Goth.

“Sohrab Goth and its adjacent areas were strategically very important for the ANP, as on the direction of party command, the members had capacity to block Super Highway within five minutes, disconnecting the city from the rest of the country”, another ANP leader said on the condition not to be named.

The ANP spokesperson, however, claimed Tareen had never been part of Awami National Party. “When Tareen was president of Pakhtun Student Federation (PSF), the party leadership dissolved PSF just because of Tareen wrongdoings,” Abdul Malik, the ANP Sindh’s spokesman said.

“We still have impact in Sohrab Goth and other parts from where hundreds of workers have come to attend the party’s May 12 public gathering in Banaras today,” he said.

“It’s the criminal record of Tareen, due to which he was refused the basic membership of ANP,” Malik added.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Published in The Frontier Post

Poppy Crops Thrive in Daish dominated areas of Afghanistan


On Friday, May 6, 2016 Daily Times has reported that Brigadier General Charles Cleveand, a senior spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan has expressed fears that Afghan Poppy Crops Could Fuel New Taliban Attacks. I’am sharing my Story, which I did in January 2015 from Jalalabad, Capital of eastern Nagarhar province of Afghanistan.

Naimat Khan

JALALABAD: New crops of poppy have been cultivated in districts of Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan amid growing influence of the Islamic States – locally known as Daish – in the area, locals living in the eastern districts say.

A resident of Haska Mena district of Nangarhar province – who met this scribe in the provincial headquarter Jalalabad – told The Frontier Post on the condition of anonymity that new crops have been massively cultivated in eight districts of the province bordering Pakistan.

“All eight districts are situated on the border area,” source said, adding it was the highest cultivation over the last few years.

These districts, local sources informed, included Haska Mena, Achin, and three districts of Khugirani, Nazian, De Bala, Sherzad, Bachi Raga and Speen Ghar.

Most of the districts are resided by Shinwari tribe of Pashtun, who live on both sides of the border, they say.

Security situation in these districts is all time worst and it is almost impossible for the Afghan security forces to enter into these areas.

Security analysts and experts having close eye over the issues in these eastern districts say the hike in poppy cultivation was seen with the rise of militant of Islamic States, who after occupying the areas have asked the locals to cultivate the poppycrops.

“The hike in poppy cultivation and growing influence of ISIS are interlinked.”

“The ISIS militants, unlike Afghan Taliban, have encouraged the cultivation, which will become a market for the drug sellers in USA,” a security expert told on the condition not to be named due to security threats.

According to previous reports opium production in Afghanistan is growing like a weed — and nothing, not even billions of dollars of U.S. money, has been able to quell it.

Earlier the United Nations had claimed in its reports that the war-torn nation provided 90 percent of the world’s supply of opium poppy, the bright, flowery cropthat transforms into one of the most addictive drugs in existence.

“Afghanistan has roughly 500,000 acres, or about 780 square miles, devoted to growing opium poppy. That’s equivalent to more than 400,000 U.S. football fields — including the end zones,” John Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said in a speech in May last year.

However, locals say a large number of youth in Nangarhar province, especially its head office, Jalalabad, has also been addicted to heroin and other deadly drugs.

When this author contacted the spokesperson of provincial governor, he said the reports were exaggerated, however, he didn’t rule out the cultivation of poppy cropsin the restive districts.

Published in The Frontier Post, Peshawar