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 

Rangers’ luncheon for police offers ‘trust building’ in menu 


KARACHI: Saturday was a good day for the dwellers of seaside metropolis when chiefs of two law enforcement agencies – The Rangers and Police – met at luncheon along with their officials.

The Rangers’ luncheon for police – concluded with permit for police to investigate suspects in Rangers’ custody – would be an ordinary event had the past relationship of both law enforcement agencies not publically known.

From Rangers raid of Mominabad police station and both offices Counter Terrorism Departments in garden and civil lines to their complaints against each others in apex committee meetings and the open expression of mistrust in courts, the Rangers, police relationship could never be termed good.

However, both police officials and independent analysts now believe that granting of permission to police to interrogate suspects in rangers’ custody will produce good results as police have good experience in translating proofs into better prosecution.

“That’s step towards very close coordination,” Feroz Shah, Deputy Inspector General of Police, West Zone, who was one of the invitees, said in his short comment.

However, Kashif Farooqi, a Karachi based crime reporter and analyst, says that SOPs of such investigations, which are still to be decided, will show the productivity of such facility for police.

Farooqi informs that Police are already part of the JITs, formed for almost all suspects who have been given into the 90-days preventative detention of Rangers.

“The luncheon and then accepting police’s request are itself good gestures from the Rangers head, which will certainly evade the mistrust we have witnessed in the last few years”, Farooqi opines.

The luncheon from Director General of Sindh Rangers, Major General Bilal Akber, was attended by Karachi Police Chief, Additional IG Mushtaq Mehar, Deputy Inspector General’s of Karachi police and other senior officials of both law enforcement agencies.

Addressing the officers here at Rangers’ headquarters, DG Rangers said that the sacrifices of police force in operation against terrorists can never be forgotten.

During the meeting Karachi police Chief, Mushtaq Meher, requested Rangers’ DG to give police the permission to interrogate the suspects who are given into the 90-days detention of Rangers by courts. DG Rangers accepted the request by granting permission.

According to reports, chiefs of both law enforcement agencies also agreed on speeding up operation against the criminals. They also agreed to monitors the activities of raw agents more rigorously.

It is pertinent to recall that Amir Khan, an MQM leader arrested in the Nine Zero raid last year, was granted bail because of what a judge called “weak prosecution”. The Rangers had detained him for 90 days, but could find solid evidence against him.

According to reports submitted in the Apex Committee meeting, 80 percent of those challaned in the court by the Rangers had either been freed by the courts or were out on bails.

According to security analysts, the 90-day detentions of suspects by Rangers do not always translate to strong interrogation, investigation or prosecution. “The new development will certainly overcome the lacunas of both the forces,” they believe.

While Rangers are important in dealing with all sort of criminals free of political and other pressures, the police’s expertise of prosecution in combine with Rangers’ efforts will produced good results.

Published in The Frontier Post

New sheriff in town?


Are the Rangers doing a better job than the police in Karachi?

Naimat Khan


New sheriff in town?


Before the recent law-enforcement operation in Karachi had begun, I met a police officer who had been relieved from a key post because of political pressure. He told me off the record that there had been no developments in the case of the assassination of journalist Wali Khan Babar because of politics.

Months later, the Rangers arrest a key suspect from the pre-dawn raid on the MQM headquarters. Faisal, alias Mota, had been convicted and sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in absentia. Many believed the police could not have carried out such a raid, because they would not have the government’s permission. Faisal is now in prison.

But Amir Khan, another MQM leader arrested in the same raid, is out on bail, because of what a judge called “weak prosecution”. The Rangers had detained him for 90 days, but could find solid evidence against him.

But for many who praise such raids for subjecting the powerful to the law are not concerned with conviction rates. They credit the Rangers for restoring peace in the city, but not the police.

“You just can’t compare the two forces,” said Khurram Sher Zaman, a PTI lawmaker from Sindh. “Around 11,000 people had been killed in Karachi in six years, before the Rangers were granted special powers.” He said police was loyal to politicians, but the Rangers did not succumb to political pressures.

Atiq Mir – the president of Karachi Tajir Ittehad who led a siege of Sindh Assembly after they passed a resolution last month placing curbs on Rangers’ powers – insists only the paramilitary force deserves credit for the restoration of peace in Karachi.

“The police have been made obedient to political leaders systemically,” according to Zahid Askari, a spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami. “A large number of political workers were inducted into the police service, affecting its performance negatively.”

The ruling PPP and its former coalition partner MQM have reservations about specific actions against their men, but publically, they too agree with the popular opinion.

“You can’t compare the two forces”

“We fully appreciate the role of Rangers, but the role of police is equally important in restoring peace in the city,” said A Rasheed Channa, a spokesman for Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. He said effective action by the police was a result of the provincial government’s capacity building measures. “We have provided them the best training, increased their salaries, and provided them with good infrastructure.”

According to a Rangers spokesman, they paramilitary force has conducted 2,410 operations since January 1, 2015, in which 4,074 suspects were apprehended. Of them, 2,198 suspects – including 887 suspected terrorists, 268 suspected assassins, 97 extortion suspects and 49 suspects of abduction for ransom – were handed over to the police. The Rangers were also involved in 69 gunfights with suspects, in which 152 suspected terrorists and criminals were killed, a report says. Twelve Rangers personnel died in the encounters and 20 were injured.

At least 67 policemen died in the line of duty in 2015. In 2014, the number was much higher, at 132.

Karachi police says it has arrested 12,235 suspected criminals and terrorists across the province in 2015. Of them, 453 were associated with Al Qaeda and Taliban, police says. Another 194 such suspects were “neutralized” in gunfights, said a police report. It also claims killing 201 suspect target killers in such encounters. Another 95 suspected assassins.

The number of murders in the city was recorded at 2,032 – a significant decrease compared with the 3,628 last year. There were only give ‘acts of terrorism’ in 2015 says the police report, compared with 22 in 2014.

A number of police officers I spoke to think the police is not appreciated. The West district of Karachi – where four industrial zones had become Taliban strongholds – are now peaceful, the police says.

On April 13, police found an explosives factory and killed five suspected Al Qaeda militants, including the suspected mastermind of the attacks on a Rangers van at the Qalandria Chowrangi. The arrest of Mehfoozullah Bhalu – made by police – proved vital in decreasing crime in the city’s hotspot, they say.

“At least 32 policemen sacrificed their lives in gunfights that killed 181 hardened terrorists, mostly associated with TTP and sectarian organizations and involved in murder and extortion,” said Feroz Shah, the DIG of the West district.

Two most important cases – Perveen Rehman murder case and Dr Shakil Auj Case – were also solved by police, another police officer said. Police arrested most of the suspects in the Safoora bus shooting, and unearthed a terrorist network previously associated with Al Qaeda and making efforts to form an alliance with the Islamic State. Raja Umar Khattab – who had been working on the group for years – also exposed a large network of women supporting and planning terrorism. Police also claim credit for arresting the suspected assassins of human rights activist Sabeen Mehmud, PTI leader Zehra Shahid, and American professor Debra Lobo, as well as the perpetrators of terrorist attacks on the members of the Bohri community, police, and Rangers.

Arrests are not the only yardsticks security experts use. “According to reports submitted in the Apex Committee meeting, 80 percent of those challaned in the court by the Rangers have either been freed by the courts or are out on bails,” according to Noman Rafique Khan, president of the Crime Reporters Association (CRA). According to Khan, the 90-day detentions of suspects by Rangers do not always translate to strong interrogation, investigation or prosecution.

He says the two law enforcement agencies should not be compared because they have different jobs. When the Karachi operation began, the Rangers were primarily given the task to deal with kidnapping, murder, extortion and terrorism cases, whereas police were assigned routine duty, such as street crime and other small crimes.

“Although they have both made some progress, they have not fully achieved their goals,” according to Khan.  “For example, the police report says abductions for ransom have decreased from 59 to one, but it doesn’t tell us that they have been replaced by short-term kidnappings.”

Karachi lies on fault lines of various kinds – political, ethnic and sectarian, analysts say. While Rangers are important in dealing with some of these conflicts, the police has the expertise to deal with others. The two forces will have to work together to restore peace in Karachi.

The writer is a journalist based in Karachi

Email: undisclosedtruth@gmail.com

Twitter: @NKMalazai

Competitor resists IS foothold in Af-Pak region

Mullah Mansoor Dadullah - the Mullah Umar's deputy - has warned  IS against interfering in Afghanistan
Mullah Mansoor Dadullah – the Mullah Umar’s deputy – has warned IS against interfering in Afghanistan

KARACHI: The reports of growing inclination of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants towards Islamic State (IS) – also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Daish – have been endorsed by a warning Afghan Taliban had given to Abu-Bakr Al Baghdadi last month, says experts while pointing towards the disclosures that the suspects of Safoora carnage were inspired of IS.

The ‘threatening letter’ reinforces the belief that the IS’ ideology and activities are not only attracting educated youths from the West but the Af-Pak region as well, security experts believe.

Addressing a news conference a senior cop associated with Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of Karachi police, Raja Umar Khattab, claimed on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 that the suspects in Safoora attack and Sabeen Mahmud case – who are said to be associated with South Asia branch of Al Qaeda, a global Jihadi organization that has made allegiance to spiritual leader of Afghan Taliban Mullah Muhammad Umar – are inspired by Islamic States’ activities.

A day later on Thursday, law enforcers arrested three militants in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province separated from Afghanistan through a thin belt of federal administered tribal areas, claiming that Asmatullah, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Ibrahim – the first two Afghan nationals were also inspired by the self-styled Islamic State.

IS, an Iraq and Syria based terrorist outfit, has mostly attracted educated youth of west and the suspects of Safoora carnage are graduates from the prestigious educational institutions like Institute of Business Administration (IBA), said an investigator, associated with investigations of the case on the condition of anonymity.

Security analysts believe that though it came in the wake of deadliest clashes between the fighters of Afghan Taliban and IS in parts of the Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, the content of the threatening letter from Afghan Taliban to its competitor, IS, is aimed at making its own IS-inclined militants clear of what the Taliban leadership believes.

In a letter, which is a mix of arguments, requests and threats, Afghan Taliban had warned leader of Islamic State (IS), Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi, to stay out of Afghanistan, saying Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – known as Afghan Taliban – considers “activities insides Afghanistan with separate names and flags against Islam, Muslims and Jihadi rules”.

Intelligence sources said the ‘warning’ was a result of fears among Taliban ranks developed as a result of increasing ‘influence’ of the Islamic States in Jihadi circles of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The letter addressed to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from Al-Hajj Mullah Akhtar Mansoor – deputy of Mullah Umar – and written on June 16, 2015 has underscored the importance of unity among Mujahedeen, which to Taliban leadership could be maintained only if both groups continue to work in their areas of influence.

The letter has further emphasized over the unity by arguing as how much the division of Mujahedeen in the post-Afghan Jihad and pre-Taliban Afghanistan had hurt the cause of Jihad.

“To take Jihad to its ultimate target is obligatory upon all Muslims, especially Mujahedeen. That’s why you should take care of unity with brothers of Islamic Emirates [Afghan Taliban] as per your religious obligation, help to strengthen them and not to show the intents that may results in inviting the anger of Mujahedeen leaders, religious scholars and thousands of Mujahedeen, which will deprive you of their love and affection”, the letter has warned.

“The Islamic Emirate will be compelled to show reaction for the defending the accomplishments it has achieved over decades”, the letter concludes with a warning.

The story was originally Published in The Frontier Post under the title Taliban resist growing influence of IS in Af-Pak region

77pc of target killing victims common citizens

target killing
Killing in Karachi on sectarian grounds makes just over 3 percent of the total target killings in the portside city.

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Target killers in the seaside metropolis have mostly gunned down common citizens, reveals an official report obtained by The Frontier Post.

The report compiled by Sindh police has recorded the data of targeted killings that occurred during 2014 and the first quarter of the ongoing year. According to report most of those who have fallen prey to the city violence include 729 innocent citizens who make over 77 percent of the total killings.

The second highest number of victims is that of police personnel who are gunned down after short intervals, the report informs. The target killers have gunned down 130 policemen in 2014 and 13 during the first quarter of the ongoing year.

Interestingly, killings on sectarian grounds get exaggerated coverage in media but official record informs that only 10 Shia and 15 Sunnis were killed in 2014 whereas with additional quarter of the current year the number of both sects equaled as target killers shot down 6 Shia and one Sunni only in the ongoing year.

If one sums up both the killing of people from both sects are just over 3 percent of the total target killings in the portside city.

According to report four workers of Awami National Party (ANP), six members of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), four workers of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and two activists of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have also fallen prey to the violence in restive metropolis during the reported fifteen months period.

If one sums up the killings on political basis it makes less than two percent of the total city killings. According to report nine doctors, one professor, three polio and three media workers have also been killed in 2014 and 2015.

The terrorists have also killed six personnel of paramilitary Rangers, one PAF and one army personnel in Karachi during the reported period.

Two officials of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and National Highway Authority (NHA) were also killed in Karachi, the report states.

Originally Published here

Official record shows Zero police action against banned PAC

Faryal Talpur, Sister of former President and Co-Chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party is receiving bouquet from Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch. The PPP member Provincial Assembly Sania Baloch is also seen
Faryal Talpur, Sister of former President and Co-Chairman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party is receiving bouquet from Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch. The PPP member Provincial Assembly Sania Baloch is also seen

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Though declared an outlaw in October 2011, the Uzair Jan Baloch led People’s Amn Committee of Lyari and its gangsters have successfully escaped the police’s wrath, official documents tell.

People’s Amn Committee (Lyari), which enjoyed overt blessing of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) before 10 October 2010 and then alleged covert support of its men and ministers onwards, is listed as a banned organization at serial number 31 in a police report, a copy of which is available to The Frontier Post.

However, when the same report prepared by Inspector General Sindh Police, Ghulam Haider Jamali, shows the police performance in reference with action against outlaw, the name of PAC misses.

According to report the police have killed 780 criminals, arrested 1417 target killers, 490 terrorists, 463 extortionists and 18232 others criminals during the 508 days of surgical operation in Karachi.

The report by Sindh police chief said that 84 members of the banned organizations were arrested whereas 139 were killed by police from 5 September 2013 to 24th January 2015.

“Two members of Al Qaeda, 131 militants of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, 3 terrorists of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, one of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, 2 of Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan were killed” the reports stated.

The police performance against banned outfits shows that 29 members of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, 7 of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, 14 of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, 7 of Imamia Student Organization and 7 of Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan have been arrested.

The police’s official performance shows no major action against the gang now enjoying covert support of the ruling PPP and one of its sitting minister.

On the contrary Rangers in 675 raids at Lyari have killed 612 members of the People’s Amn committee and arrested 491 of the group.

Sardar Uzair Jan Baloch, head of the People’s Amn Committee was arrested by Interpol in UEA but is not being handed over to Pakistan yet.

A Dubai court on last hearing had termed the evidences presented by Pakistan officials insufficient for granting him to Pakistan.

Originally Published here 

Customs house staffer, terror outfit plan school attack in Karachi

Custom House Karachi

Naimat Khan

KARACHI: An employee of the customs house Karachi, in collaboration with a proscribed outfit, has planned to carry out attack on a Karachi school, it was reliably learnt here on Thursday.

Intelligence sources told this scribe that the concerned staffer has made a plan with the terrorist organization to carry out attack on a school in Keemari port town
of the city.

Meantime, an information report sent to the law enforcement agencies in Karachi, a copy of which is available with The Frontier Post states the concerned staffer is named Fazl-e-Khaliq who is working as waiter in Custom house.

According to Intelligence agencies the concerned man belongs to a proscribed organization and is resided in Keemari town.

The report further states that the staffer is currently working as head of proscribed Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) Keemari town in Karachi who regularly holds meeting of his terrorist organization in a room situated in the locality.

The law enforcement agencies have been informed that Fazl-e-Khaliq and his associates
remained armed.

It is pertinent to mention here that despite terrorist threats the Sindh Government has remained failed in making appropriate security arrangements. Meantime, the private schools have started charging parents for the security of schools.

The story was originally published here