Counter-terror experts give no credence to LEJ-A claim of Quetta police academy assault

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Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Counter-terrorism experts have rejected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) Al-Almi’s claim of carrying out the Quetta police training academy attack, saying the banned outfit’s assertion meant for a mere re-branding.

The claim by Al-Almi, an offshoot of the LeJ – a Sunni sectarian outfit with its origins in Punjab – has not been established so far, says Raja Umar Khattab, a senior counter-terrorism official in Karachi, revealing that the claim by Afghanistan-based IS-Khurasan could be substantiated through evidences the outfit has provided with its claim on Tuesday. “Both organisations are, however, being operated from Afghanistan currently.”

Over 60 police cadets were killed when three heavily-armed militants wearing suicide vests stormed the police training centre on the outskirt of the capital city of Balochistan on October 24.

Interestingly, both the proscribed groups, Islamic State and Al-Almi, claimed responsibility with the latter saying it was assisting the Khurasan branch of the Middle Eastern terrorist organisation. IG Frontier Corps Major-General Sher Afgun said calls intercepted between the attackers and their handlers suggested they were from the LeJ.

“We came to know from the communication intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan,” Afgun told reporters, adding, “The Al-Alami faction of LeJ was behind the attack.”

Read More: Elimination of Malik Ishaq no fatal blow to sectarian killings

The Islamic State’s Amaq news agency published the claim of responsibility, saying three IS fighters “used machine guns and grenades, and then blew up their explosive vests in the crowd”. A teenage attacker killed by security forces can be seen in IS media release, supporting the IS-Khurran’s claim.

“The calls may definitely be from Afghanistan as both the IS and LeJ Al-Almi are being operated from other side of the border,” the police official said. “Though LeJ and Al-Almi claimed the responsibility, the one IS-Khurasan with evidently true claim hasn’t mentioned any assistance from the sectarian outfit,” Khattab told The Frontier Post.

This is not the first terror act with multiple claims. In August, Quetta hospital was attacked that left 70 people, mostly lawyers, dead was claimed by the IS, and also by the banned Pakistani Taliban faction, Jamaatur Ahrar. However, according to Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri, India’s premier spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), was involved in the attack.

Though, Al-Alami earlier claimed responsibility for the targeted assassinations of four women of the Hazara Shia community in the provincial capital and the attack on a Shia Imambargah in Karachi, experts believe that the trend of attacking Shia community and law enforcement agencies by IS has emerged, without any role of the LeJ.

“Currently, several terrorist outfits, including IS, AQIS and TTP are found involved in sectarian-driven bloodletting,” the official said.

According to the police official, LeJ has the capability of target killing but it doesn’t seem to be capable of carrying out major terror attacks. “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was formed in 2004 by Abid Mehsud, a mastermind of Hasan Turabi murder, but the group has never excelled.”

Currently, Yousuf Mansoor is running the organisation from Afghanistan whereas its Sindh chapter’s head, Safdar alias Abu Sufian, who is also the outfit’s spokesperson, is admitting most of the terror acts to remain in the news for attracting youths with militant and sectarian tendencies.

“The organisation’s claims haven’t been verified,” Khattab told this scribe, adding that the group has been unable to establish its own camp inside Pakistan or Afghanistan and has been sending its members to camps of other terrorist outfits.

According to security experts, the Al-Alami’s mother organisation, LeJ, has almost become dysfunctional after two of its most notorious leaders, i.e. Malik Ishaq, the chief of the terror outfit, and Usman Saifullah Kurd, the head of its Balochistan chapter, were killed in encounters with law enforcers.

Moreover, Hafiz Naeem Bukhari, the head of LeJ’s Karachi chapter; Asif Chotu, the commander from southern Punjab, and Qari Ramzan Mengal, the Quetta-chapter head, are in jail.

Read More: Writing on the wall

Reports suggested that the killings and arrests of its top leadership have hampered LeJ’s operational capabilities and dented its organisational infrastructure. “LeJ has never claimed responsibility,” the official added.

Meanwhile, Balochistan government on Wednesday formed an investigation team to probe into the Quetta carnage. “The support of Punjab’s forensic agency will also be sought,” Deputy IG Quetta Abdul Razzaq Cheema said. The team will visit the incident cite, speak to survivors and present its report soon, added Cheema.

Published in The Frontier Post

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Poppy Crops Thrive in Daish dominated areas of Afghanistan

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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 

No established ISIS network in Sindh, investigators

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: A senior Investigator, who is fighting different terror groups for more than a decade now, was surprised over the “startling revelations” by none other than his boss – Inspector General Sindh Police Ghulam Hyder Jamali, and subsequent reports regarding the presence of lethal terror outfit Islamic State in southern Pakistani province.

While briefing a meeting of the Standing Committee on Interior in Islamabad IGP Sindh Ghulam Hyder Jamali had claimed that the militants targeted a bus carrying Ismaili community members in Karachi earlier this year belonged to Daesh – Islamic State. He further divulged that the suspects of Safoora attack had been getting instructions from one Abdul Aziz in Syria.

Two days later a section of media claimed that the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) of the Sindh police had prepared a list of 53 terrorists, who are affiliated Islamic State.

According to reports Abdullah Yousuf alias Abdul Aziz and also Saqib is the Ameer of Daesh – also known Islamic State – , while another suspected terrorist has been identified as Shahid Khokhar, who hails from Hyderabad.

Reports further said that the third terrorist is Bilal who is affiliated with Daesh and hails from Mirpurkhas.

However, on Wednesday a spokesman for the Sindh police said the news reports claiming that Sindh police had issued or prepared any list of 53 Islamic State (IS)-\’inspired\’ militants are incorrect.

The spokesman in his statement issued to media categorically denied issuance of such a list by any department working under Sindh police.

When this scribe contacted a senior police officer, he on the condition of anonymity told IGP Sindh’s either wrongly reported or was misreported in media. He said that no link between the attackers of Safoora incident and IS could be proved.

“Instead, they were inspired of the style of IS” he told while talking to The Frontier Post. He said the persons who carried this savage attack and those planning and implementing the killings of Ismailis had proven association with Al Qaeda Indian Subsequent (AQIS).

“Had the Islamic State have any network in Karachi they would haven’t deluded Zain Shahid and Bilal Rind” the Karachi youths through twitter”, he said, adding direct contact through the existing network could be their preferable step. No local link between Zain and Bilal and the ISIS could be found either, the police officer opines.

According to their interrogation report, a copy of which is available with The Frontier Post, Zain Shahid and Bilal Rind told interrogators that they were deluded through twitter by the terrorists based in Syria but they failed to cross Iran into Iraq and Turkey in a bid to reach their final destination. Both misled youths were later released on probation and the police are now closely watching their activities, police official said.

Both the arrested persons did not know each other but they were brought in contact and first met at the mosque of Boat Basin, a report said. “They were told to reach Turkey from Iran and from there they were offered by Daesh members to be taken to Syria” they told investigators.

Originally Published in The Frontier Post

Pakistani Gays, Fashion Designers at militants’ hit-list

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Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Siding with government and military that supports American led invading forces and not airing or publishing the militant’s point of view has been the criteria for making it to the hit-lists of Taliban and other proscribed organizations but Al Qaeda’s militants – presently in custody of law enforcers – have disclosed they had some more reasons as well, we have reliably learnt.

“Deep neck, skirts, mini-skirts, sleeveless dresses are promoting obscenity in the country and fashion designers are setting up foundation for an obscene and vulgar Pakistan” this was one of the reasons, which Saad Aziz – the alleged killer of Sabeen Mahmud and Safoora bus victims – shared in response to a question posed by interrogators as Why fashion designers be attacked.

For TV artists they perceived were gay and spreading homosexuality in the country, which was curved out of the Indian sub-continent in the name of Islam.

The hit-list recovered from Safoora’s suspects also includes the names of at least five Fashion designers and same number of television artists, highly credible sources told this scribe.

All journalists, fashion designers and artists, SP Raja Umar Khattab – In-charge Counter Terrorism Unit of Karachi police – claims, are saved after the lethal network has now been busted.

“By killing the selected ones we wanted to make them a lesson for others who are bent upon making Pakistan a vulgar and obscene country and like the west, in most parts of which the homosexuality has been legalized”, Saad Aziz told interrogators.

Many terrorist acts like attack on American Professor, murder of Director T2F Sabeen Mahmud were brain child of Saad Aziz, who due to his association with upper strata of the society would always think out of box and to the level to which the mind of Taliban and other militants from lower and middle classes would hardly reach, a police officer associated with case told while demanding anonymity.

Aziz, a former graduate of the prestigious Institute of Business Administration (IBA) – an institute that had been alma-matter of incumbent president Mamnoon Hussain, former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and former Governor State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain among others – offered some unique reasons for attacking the artists.

“The hit-list has enlisted artists who, Saad Aziz and his fellow perceived, were Gays and working for spreading it in Pakistani society” sources said.

According to sources Aziz was influenced by the news items appeared in some section of Pakistani media that the United State embassy in Islamabad, which reportedly hosted a meeting of Pakistani gay and lesbians in July 2011, has actively launched a campaign to “spread homosexuality” in the country and “tainting” the posh areas of Lahore and Karachi.

“The U.S. embassy doled out huge funds to Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to oversee the campaign and it helping homosexuals to get Canadian and American visas on priority basis” stated a Urdu Daily while quoting its sources, adding the campaign was so widespread that lawyer body in Islamabad had to submit a formal complaint to Senior Superintendent of Police to lodge case against U.S activities for the “protections of humanity.”

With this background in mind and legal battles in the USA and west for legalizing gay marriages, Aziz wanted, according to his account before investigators, to have a pull stop to spreading homosexuality in Pakistan by killing the said artists.

According to police sources the fashion designers who made it to hit-list were also believed by the Al Qaeda youth network as Gays.

It is worthy to note that the hit-list, which police claimed to have recovered from Safoora suspects, also includes the names of journalists and law enforcers.

Originally Published  “The Frontier Post”

IS versus Taliban

Is the growing influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan a threat to Taliban and Al Qaeda?

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Although it is far from becoming a significant force in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the Islamic State (IS) has started to worry the Afghan Taliban, Al Qaeda, and groups affiliated with them, insiders and analysts say.

On July 6, Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar asked his militants to support the Islamic State in its fight against Taliban – his old rivals who formed a government in Kabul by throwing out the Afghan Mujahedeen, including himself. That is the latest in a series of bad news for Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Hizb-e-Islami, which has claimed several terrorist acts in Afghanistan, including an attack on a team of aid workers in the Badakhshan province in 2010 and a bomb explosion targeting a pair of US military vehicles in 2013 – was in contact with IS for long, sources in Peshawar say. The distribution of IS leaflets in Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar last year was believed to be the handiwork of Hizb-e-Islami, although the group’s leaders had rejected the allegation.

Many Afghans see the IS as foreigners

The organization led by the former Afghan prime minister has thousands of active fighters in Afghanistan and it is likely to help IS recruit and establish a base in the region, say analysts closely watching the activities of one of the oldest Jihadi group of the region.

Background interviews with locals suggest that a ‘threatening letter’ from Afghan Taliban – who want to be named the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – was also a sign of fears about the IS that persist among the Taliban ranks. Zubair Babakarkhail, a Kabul based journalist, agrees that the letter demonstrates the very high degree of concern.

“Taliban have declared 2015 the year of their ultimate victory, and they are now faced with a new problem in shape of the IS, which is threatening to make their decade-long efforts futile,”says Babakarkhail, who has been interacting with local Taliban commanders for his journalistic assignments.

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“Initially, the Afghan Taliban’s policy was to ignore the IS and not give them too much importance,” says Hasan Abdullah, an Islamabad based security analyst. But later, they felt that the IS was trying to create friction, polarize the jihadis, and instigate a rebellion against the leadership of Mullah Umar.”

The letter, addressed to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from Al-Haj Mullah Akhtar Mansoor – the deputy of Mullah Umar – was written on June 16, and has underscored the importance of unity among jihadis, which according to the Taliban leadership could be maintained only if both the groups continued to work in their own areas of influence – Afghanistan, and the Arab world.

“It seems that through the letter, the Taliban have tried to gain a high moral ground while trying to contain IS at the same time,” says Abdullah.

The IS has warned the Taliban commanders to join them or get ready to be killed

To many, the letter is more than a threat from the Taliban to the Iraq and Syria based terrorist outfit. They say it was aimed at making it clear that Taliban don’t subscribe to the IS viewpoint. They openly oppose its presence in the region, deeming it against the Jihadi cause.

Babrak Yousafzai, a journalist from the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, however gives little importance to the letter. He says it made very little impact on the IS, which issued on its website a retaliatory ‘warning’ to Taliban commanders to either join their Khorasan (Afghanistan) chapter, or get ready to be killed.

Babakarkhail sees IS a ‘not-so-distant’ threat to both the Afghan government and the Taliban.

According to a report published on June 30, fighting between Taliban and IS has spread across several districts in the Nangarhar province. In January, Maulana Abdul Rauf, an important Afghan Taliban commander from Helmond province, paid allegiance to Al Baghdadi.

The announcement was followed by severe fighting. By now, the IS has gained Helmond, Farah and Nangarhar, three of the Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

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On July 5, the militants of IS warned local farmers in the eastern Nangarhar province to stop cultivating opium. They also reportedly slapped some local smokers and those using ‘naswar’, a famous tobacco snuff consumed by Pashtuns around the world.

On January 27, on Pakistani side of the Durand Line, an important Pakistani Taliban leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan, announced his allegiance to Al Baghdadi and reportedly took charge as the emir of IS in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some disgruntled Taliban groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Mehmond chapter, and the former TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, also announced allegiance to the IS chief – a new claimant for the title Ameerul Momineen, which was previously claimed by Mullah Umar.

Before that, IS literature was distributed in the Afghan refugees camps of Shamshato and Jalozai in September last year. The leaflets, though published in the Mohallah Jangi area of the city, could not be distributed in the settled areas. Since one of the camps is considered the headquarters of Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami, it was believed that the IS might be enjoying the support of the group.

Among the prominent activities of IS was “wall chalking” in the Baloch belt of Balochistan province — an area with little or no Taliban and Al Qaeda influence. Two recent police statements indicate IS’ growing influence over the militants already associated with Al Qaeda.

Experts sy if the IS intends to launch itself in the region, then, like other militant organizations, would have to build a proper organizational structure, which they lack at present.

Al Qaeda too has announced a South Asia chapter, which analysts see as a reaction to IS activities in Pakistan. The IS is trying hard, and the support from the Hizb will help it organize itself in the region, one expert said.

But does is it in a position to become a real threat to the much larger Taliban and their allies?

“So far it seems that the IS does not have a very strong footprint in the region,” says Abdullah. “On the other hand, the Afghan Taliban are well organised and there is a strong alliance between them and Al Qaeda.” The IS has tried to assert its authority in parts of Afghanistan but so far it seems to be lacking the grassroots support enjoyed by Taliban and Al Qaeda, he says.

That is not their only problem. The IS might fail to have a strong foothold in Afghanistan, analysts say, because the its instructions to locals to stop cultivating opium – which serves as a key source of income for Afghans – will further hurt the support they have among the locals, if any.

In background interviews, many locals see the IS as a foreign group. According to Babrak, many in Afghanistan also believe that the IS enjoys the support of the US and some European countries.

The IS has turned out to be harsher with the people of the Shia community than the Taliban, forcing the Shia Hazaras in the southern districts to form an anti-IS alliance with Taliban.

The Afghans – most dominantly Hanafi Muslims – are also opposing the IS on the ground of their typical Wahabi ideology.

Unlike Afghanistan, recent disclosures reveal that the young people in Pakistan are attracted towards the IS. On July 1, a Karachi police official, Raja Umar Khattab, claimed that the suspects in the recent attack on Ismaili Shias and liberal activist Sabeen Mahmud – said to be associated with Al Qaeda in South Asia – were also inspired by the IS.

A day later, three suspects were arrested in Peshawar. Two of them, Asmatullah and Abdur Rehman, are Afghan nationals also inspired by the Islamic State.

The IS’ gains in Afghanistan and its influence over the young minds in Pakistan may not be an immediate threat to the militants already active in the region, but possible infighting between the rival groups fighters will certainly be a threat to peace in the region.

The writer is a freelance journalist

Email: undisclosedtruth@gmail.com

Twitter: @NKMalazai

Originally Published in The Friday Times 

Karachi Police wants bounty over TTP Chief, airport attackers

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Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: After having completely failed in apprehending small criminals, the Karachi Police believes it will arrest the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s Chief Mullah Fazlullah, former spokesperson TTP and current Daish leader Shahidullah Shah, suspects of airport attack, accused of assassination bid on former SHC CJ and other high profile terrorists by fixing reward money over their heads.

This has been made as basis for getting funds of Rs 1.44 billion in letter to the provincial homes department which has raised a summary for approval of Chief Minister Sindh.

Highly credible sources said the provincial secretary, who himself had been opposing to fix bounty over arresting criminal and had floated a summary for a ban over it, facilitated the smooth raising of this summary after influential person in the Sindh Government pressurized him.

The rewards money along the high profile terrorists and militants will be fixed on 221 accused which also include the Lyari gangsters and workers of political parties including Muttahida Qaumi Movement, sources said. A high rank former police officer when reminded of previous deliberations over removing the head money he agreed that it will encourage the trend of fake encounters and further corrupt police force.

While speaking on the condition of anonymity due to his past high rank position in Karachi police, the officer admitted that all over the world the reward money would be given to the informers only however the Sindh and Karachi police have been claimed million of rupees for encounters, most of which would later turn out to be fake.

The Karachi police while going on the same lines wrote a letter to secretary interior Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi on 15 October 2014 wherein he was requested to fix bounty over 221 absconders in the most wanted list of the police. The letter from Karachi police Chief Ghulam Qadir Thebo reads if the Sindh home office placed head money over the 221 absconders, it will be easy for police to apprehend criminals due to flow of information.

It has also been accepted in the letter that police officers show efficiency for apprehending the criminals who have bounty over their heads.

Sources in home department of Sindh said the secretary home Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi has prepared a summary in the light of recommendations by Karachi police chief with instructions to his subordinate to dispatch the same for CM’s approval.

According to the summary a bounty of Rs 2 million each has been fixed on TTP Chief Mullah Fazlullah and former spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. Other prominent absconders include the accused of attack on former Chief Justice Sindh High Court Justice Maqbool Baqir, attackers of Karachi’s Jinnah International airport and target killers of political parties.

This development has occurred in a time when due to its misuse and conflicting claims by different LEAs have compelled the provincial home department to seriously consider stopping the head money it has been placing on terrorists, target killers and dacoits.

According to a previous summary floated by Sindh Home department and the fate of which is still unknown the greed for reward is leading to fake encounters, corrupting police officers and tarnishing their image besides declining their efficiency, this newspaper had reported.

A summary floated by Sindh Home Department for approval of provincial chief executive, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, revealed both Sindh Rangers and Sindh Police requested for the reward money of Rs1 million, the PPP-led Sindh Government had fixed on a hardened terrorist of LeJ.

According to the summary, a copy of which was acquired by This newspaper, Director General, Headquarters Pakistan Rangers Sindh requested for payment of reward money, of 1,000,000 (one million) to Rangers personnel as they apprehended a most wanted terrorist, Qari Abdul Hai Alias Asadullah S/o Ghulam Ali for his involvement in terrorists activities of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Sindh and Punjab.

However, there came a twist in the story when the Sindh police also requested for head money on the same accused, claiming these were police guy who had actually accomplished the task. That summary stated a large number of cases are received from police department for announcement of reward money on the arrest and elimination of criminals.

“In some cases, it has been observed that the criminals involved in ordinary cases are being shown as hardened criminals and a reward money in million of rupees is proposed on their arrest and elimination” the home secretary, Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi, wrote to Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah.

Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi had also opined that the rewards money had become a vehicle of easy gain and a means of corruption for a large number of police officers. “The reward money culture creeping in Sindh police has gravely eroded efficiency, moral and image of police officers”, the summary reads.

However, sources claimed Dr Niaz Ali Abbasi, who had been opposing the placement of such bounties himself, prepared the summary of Rs 1.44 billion under pressure from influential in Sindh Government.

The story was originally published here