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

‘Death squads backed by Muslim neighbor operate in Karachi’

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KARACHI: As the Rangers’ led operation against political killers and terrorist outfits like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Al Qaeda has been successful, the law enforcers are facing hardship in dealing with at least one lawlessness factor due to religious resistance and sectarian leanings within police force, it has reliably been learnt.

A report by a sensitive agency, a copy of which is available with The Frontier Post, has cited “constant power struggle between various political, religious and sectarian segments of the society” as a core of Karachi problem. “The power struggle is essentially geared towards having control over the financial resources”.

“Land grabbing, china-cutting and control over water hydrants and lucrative contracts in industrial areas remains the core of such confrontations,” the report reads. According to intelligence agencies, the problem is compounded by corruption and collusion of Sindh police coupled with lacunas in criminal justice system which are effectively exploited by such mafias.

Read more:  Writing on the wall

As much has been done on this front, including effective operation against political killers, operation against TTP, Al Qaeda and IS-Inspired Jihadi network in the city’s suburbs, a problem is unresolved due to some factors, yet to be overcome, a source told this scribe. “The city is also the target of international intelligence agencies being a port city”.

According to report Karachi has been the recruitment base of Al-Qaeda traditionally. “The presence of vast number of Deobandi and Ahle-Hadith Madressahs provide a rich recruiting base for terrorist organizations”.

According to security sources, bringing Madressah registration laws is part of the efforts to overcome this issue. “But there is another issue, which is far from being addressed,” a law enforcement officer told on the condition of anonymity.

“The presence of large Shia majority in areas such as Abbas town, Jaffer-e-Tayyar Society Malir, Ancholi Rizvia, New Golimar, Shah Faisal provides an excellent operational area for Iranian intelligence to make inroads”, informs the report. Multiple Shia death squads operate in Karachi and due to significant presence of Shia officers in police and law enforcement agencies the operations against such death squads could hardly ever be successful, the report reads.

“Furthermore, being financially well off and being a well connected community any arrests of target killers in past met with immensely powerful street agitations,” according to the report, informing that the Shia death squads are cleverly operating under the garb of Shia NGOs such as Jaffria disaster cell (JDC), PYAM, OYAM and Baqiatullah.

According to the report, Majlis-e-Wihdat-ul Muslimeen (MWM), the new political face of Shia community in Pakistan – which has been contesting elections in Karachi – has also formed its own death squad.

“Target killing has been a rampant phenomenon in Karachi. MQM-A has been the prominent political party using target killing as its favored tool. Atleast 12 death squad teams operated in Karachi further assisted by sector target killer teams”.

According to report the intelligence based operations have seriously reduced MQMA’s death squads’ capabilities however there are other actors using the same tool with resilience. “MQMA started to face serious fissures within it due to its Shia members breaking away from MOMA towards MWM.

“Latest reports indicate that MWM has also created its own death squads”.

According to a report by  Samaa News channel , Police have revealed that a man recently arrested on the suspicion of target killing had been working as a translator for the neighboring country’s consul general.

The man, identified as Mehdi Moosvi, was arrested by police from Shadman Town area of Karachi.  “Officials claim the suspected hit-man, allegedly involved in sectarian killings and terrorism, has made shocking disclosures during the investigation”, news channel reported and added, “He [the accused] disclosed that he has worked as translator of a neighboring country’s consul general, and has also accompanied his country’s diplomat during meetings with former Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and other high officials”.

The accused has also worked in the cyber crime cell of FIA after he helped the agency’s deputy director Kamran Ata in recovering fake degrees. Prior his association Mehdi was officer in the Axact.  On May 21, 2016, this newspaper reported anti-IS graffiti in Shia neighborhoods of the city amid reports of several youths having joined the Assad’s battle against the Middle Eastern terrorist group, IS, in Syria.

“Thousands of Shia youths have left for Iraq and Syria from different parts of the country, including Karachi whereas anti-Islamic State (IS) sentiments are touching its highest edge in Shia neighborhoods of the seaside city,” a senior official told then on the condition of anonymity.  On other hands the experts told this scribe that the growing trend of anti-IS wall-walking in Shia vicinities indicated that the community had been exposed to recruitments by the groups who are sending youths to Syria and Iraq for anti-Daish fighting.

On May 2, 2016 Iran passed a law to grant citizenship to families of Pakistani ‘martyrs’ fighting in Syria and Iraq. It’s also pertinent to mention that an earlier report published in this newspaper informed that thousands of Pakistanis have left for Syria to fight alongwith Assad’s forces. In its letter on 13th August, 2014 National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) wrote to provincial governments that over 2000 Pakistani Shia students were studying in Madaris of Najaf, Iraq where they are “brainwashed and motivated against Sunni on sectarian line and Pakistani government for alleged killing of Shia in Pakistan.”

Tariq Habib, an Islamabad based journalist, told The Frontier Post in May 2016 that known faces of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who are being placed in fourth schedule, had been advised by leadership to leave for Syria via Balochistan.

“The Shia youth recruited under the banner of ‘Al-Zainabun’ and Sunni youth fighting alongwith Diash are sent to Syria and Iraq for three and seven months, respectively. If proper strategy wasn’t adopted to counter them the sectarian violence will break all past records of Pakistan,” Habib told.

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

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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

Abandoned by families, youths become vulnerable to terrorist inclinations

Alienated Youths vulnerable to terrorist inclinations, say experts 

KARACHI: Although the youth’s growing inclination towards extremism and terrorism is widely believed to have a direct link with hate literature and poverty, at least three young men from Karachi have had other reasons, which pushed them towards radicalization.

“The letters written by Saad Aziz, a former IBA graduate and prime suspect in Safoora Goth massacre and Sabeen Mahmud murder case, reveal the fragile relationship he had with his family members, which led him, closer to the militants,” says Raja Umar Khattab, a senior counter-terrorism officer who unearthed a group of highly educated terrorists in the city.

As if Saad’s breakup with his girlfriend was not enough, his sister’s continuous squabbles, and apathetic behaviour of his mother further alienated him, thus becoming vulnerable for the terrorists to enfold him in their circle, adds Khattab.

According to Aziz’s writings, his father had no or little say during family fights, and he was getting disillusioned by the day. There was no one to listen to his point of view, he told investigators.

Aziz, during interrogation, confessed to have killed Mahmud – director of popular cafe – the Second Floor Café (T2f) – in city’s Defence area.

But Aziz is not the only case highlighting how important family bonds are to keep the youths away from extremist inclinations.

On October 11, Karachi police held two men – Bilal Rind and Zain Shahid after the latter’s failed attempt to fly to Turkey and then Syria to join the Islamic State – in their fight against Bashar Al Assad – the Syrian ruler.

Police say there is no local presence of IS, and both the men were recruited through Twitter. Both, recruited separately, were introduced to each other before they left for Iran with a human trafficker.

Shahid and Rind were arrested in a remote Iranian town along the Turkish border. They were later deported by Iran and handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which handed over them in the detention of the Sindh police’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD).

However, since they had so far done no harm to anyone, and regretted their decision because of being fully ‘brainwashed’, were released on probation.

Bilal, who settled in Karachi in 2013, was born in Dubai in 1986 and had got his education the American University in Dubai in 2006. Zain was born in Saudi Arabia and upon his return to Pakistan got his bachelor degree from Iqra University.

With no Madrassah or Pakistani educational background the economically sound youths were living in families least concerned about their kids, investigators say. “During examination by forensic psychologists it emerged that lose family bonds and indifferent attitude of the family was a major cause of the drastic shift in their lives” the police officer said.

According to the police, Bilal Rind was a ‘party boy’ and had spent his life abroad. Even a young preacher can bring a  180 degree shift in their thoughts, says Khattab, adding as soon as Rind was contacted by IS men, he was abandoned by the family, and it took him no time to become a Mowlvi.

Shahid’s case is no different, adds the counter-terrorism officer.

“Broken families that are not with separated parents but still their mornings start with squabbling, affect the teens, pushing them towards destructive thoughts”, says Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat – founding chairman of the department Criminology University of Karachi.

“An anti-crime society has to be developed to eliminate the menace of extremism for which proactive families – where the kids share every problem with their parents and elder brothers – and education based on societal ethics is to be ensured”.

Published in The Frontier Post 

Officials in LEAs have sectarian affiliations, report reveals

1918429991Naimat Khan

KARACHI: There are officials of the Law Enforcement Agencies who have sectarian leanings and affiliations, this startling and shocking revelation has been made in a report of Pakistani intelligence agencies, which have advised provinces not to post such officials on duty for security of the Moharram processions.

NACTA Letter“

“The officials of LEAs with visible sectarian leanings and affiliations may not be deputed for Moharram duties”” reads a NACTA letter to the provinces which also suggests several measures for ensuring peaceful culmination of the Moharram processions.

The authority in its letter dated 22 October 2014 has also expressed its fears of a clash in Pindi on 10th Moharram, instructing that to avoid such clashes religious seminaries in the capital’’s sister city, Karachi and other sensitive parts of the country should be closed from 5th to till 10 Moharram.

“Special security measures may be taken in and around Rawalpindi, particularly at Jamia Taleem-ul-Quran, Raja Bazaar in view of the likely observance of the anniversary of the killings in 2013 on 10th”, it stated.

The provincial homes offices have been advised to ensure strict security and proper sweeping of procession routes besides removing provocative wall chalking. A complete ban over the use of loudspeaker and ban over provocative speeches have also been advised.

Besides, the administrations of procession have also been advised to culminate the processions before 4pm in the daylight. Deputing police on rooftops, ensuring ban on pillion riding and installations of CCTV cameras in sensitive areas are also among the recommendations. The PEMRA has also been asked to ensure balanced reporting of the Moharram events by the news channel.

Meantime, the Sindh Home Secretary Dr Niaz Ali Abbas Friday expressed fears of terrorist attacks on Moharram processions in Karachi, which he said may be carried out through water tankers, oil tankers, ambulances and DCNG vans of Media.

This story was originally published here

DSP among 3 killed in Karachi blasts

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Naimat Khan

KARACHI: At least three persons, including DSP Kamal Khan Mangan and a police investigation officer, were killed and fifteen others wounded in twin blasts in the Sherpao Colony of Landhi area, Karachi on Thursday.

DIG Aleem Jafri told media that the deceased had been identified as DSP Kamal Khan Mangan, Sub-Inspector Akbar Hussain and one civilian Fazal Muhammad.

Director Emergency JPMC Dr Seemi Jamali, while talking to The Frontier Post, first confirmed four deaths and 15 injuries as results of the blast. However, when again contacted for getting updates she said the body of fourth one, namely Saeed-ur-Rehman was brought from Pirabad area in Orangi and was mistakenly counted as one of the blasts’ deceased. She further informed that Muhammad Hanif, a head constable injured in the blast was not in a stable condition.

According to reports, the first blast took place when two unidentified terrorists riding a bike threw a hand grenade near a dump yard in Landhi. It was followed by second blast when the police and rescue teams reached the spot just 14 minutes after the first blast.

According to SP CID, Umar Khittab, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) and an investigation office of sub-inspector rank were among those killed in the blast. Police further said that two of their vehicles and two ambulances were damaged in the explosion.

According to police, the second bomb was placed in a cement block which also contained ball bearings. However the bomb disposal squad (BDS) when contacted did not substantiate the claim of police.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah strongly condemned blasts in Landhi and directed IG Sindh Police to immediately submit report about the incident.

The chief minister also issued directives to ensure strict security arrangements for Eid Milad-un-Nabi (SAW) in the entire province. Shah instructed law enforcing agencies to keep strict vigil over the activities of miscreants.

MQM chief Altaf Hussain, ANP’s Senator Shahi Syed and JI leader Muhammad Hussain Mehnti also condemned the attack in their statements.

Published on January 25, 2013

http://www.thefrontierpost.com/article/204130/