Making it deadly

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Naimat Khan

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KARACHI: Terrorists in Pakistan do not rely on industrial grade bombs. Instead, to target both law enforcers and ordinary civilians, they have relied on their own specialized cadres to make different kinds of bombs. On April 12, 2016, Karachi Police’s Counter Terror Department unearthed a facility used to make bombs in the Gadap town. In the raid one bomb maker named Muhammad Mujtaba aka Rehan was eliminated. One of his accomplices, named Abdul Saboor aka Hamad was killed, whereas anther, named Muhammad Murtaza, was arrested. Police also recovered 80 kg of explosive material, circuits, ball bearings, bottle bombs, tennis ball bombs, bomb manufacturing material, laptop, memory cards, and USBs.

Raja Umar Khattab, senior counter terrorism official who led the raid, told this scribe that the arrested Muhammad Murtaza aka Abu Huraira claims that the dead Rehan was the last expert bomb maker alive in the city. Rehan was the protege of Hashim aka Babu, a master bomb marker with 14 years of experience, especially car bombs. Babu was killed in a gunfight with the police in April 2015.

After Babu – who had put together the bomb manufacturing setup in Gadap town and supplied explosive devices to one Abdus Salam Sindhi of Liaquatabad – was killed, the Counter Terror Department’s assessment was that it had set back AQIS’s bomb making capability significantly. “After that shoot out, I thought that this was it. As I had extensively worked on hunting the bomb makers and dented all three groups – the brainwashers, the hit-men and bomb makers – of Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), I believed that no locally made lethal weapon will be used by terrorists, at least for next couple of years,” Khattab told The Frontier Post.

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But six months later, on October 17, 2016, the police were surprised when terrorists hurled hand grenades at an Imambargah in Liaquatabad killing one child and leaving several women hurt. Media reported it as cracker blast. “For a while I believed that my assessment after April had been wrong,” Khattab told and added “but when we arrested Ishaq Booby and Asim Capri, accused of Amjad Sabri’s murder, they disclosed that they had hit the Shia Majlis with grenade having ball bearing wrapped to it”.

“The terrorists had wrapped ball bearings with it for ensuring it results maximum fatalities.” It was clear to Khattab then that Taliban and AQIS were innovating around their constraints.

In March 2013, the BBC Urdu first reported terrorists – normally knowing for using Russian made hand grenades and smoke grenades – were using the tennis ball bomb. The tennis ball bomb was an invention of the Taliban, according to the Police, working like a small bomb or cracker but had a bigger sound impact. Taliban increased its lethality by adding ball bearings of 2mm and nails. Such tennis ball bombs were made at the factory in Gadap Town.

The loss of the bomb making facility at Gadap is likely to hurt the Taliban as it comes on the back of sustained counter terror efforts by the law enforcement agencies.

“We have always known the TTP uses local bomb making factories, but with the success of Zarb-e-Azb, we know that their capabilities have been decimated,” according to Khalid Muhammad, Director General – CommandEleve, adding, “We also know that they have ‘imported’ bomb makers from AQAP and IS Khorasan to give them a more logistic advantage in quick hit attacks with IEDs, much like the tennis ball or shoe bomb”.

Muhammad is of the view that the security agencies must shut down capabilities of terrorists comprehensively, which they are currently doing.

“Second, we must get ahead of their technology by understanding what technology these groups have used in other battle spaces like Iraq and Syria,” he concludes.

They are for maximum terrorism, whether inventing new or adding more lethality to the factory-made, the terrorists will continue their search for deadly weapons to use, said another analyst.

Published in The Frontier Post 

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Cop who arrested Aafia Siddiqui tops LeJ hit-list

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KARACHI: The arrested militants of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have revealed during interrogation that an official of the Sindh Police, they believed had arrested Dr Aafia Siddiqui, remained at top of their hit-list.

Siddiqui, a MIT trained Pakistani neuroscientist, was convicted on two counts of attempted murder of US nationals, officers, and employees, assault with a deadly weapon, carrying and using a firearm, and three counts of assault on US officers and employees.

She is serving her 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center, Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. According to reports in local media, Aafia was arrested by Karachi Police in Gulshan-e-Iqbal area of the city and handed over to an American intelligence agency who took her to Afghanistan for showing her arrest there in order to make a case against her.

The LeJ members say the sectarian proscribed outfit  also believed that Aafia was arrested by a police officer, who later become spokesperson for the Sindh Police. The officer, they believed, handed her over Siddiqui to an American intelligence agency.

Earlier this week, Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah announced that Counter Terrorism Police of his province lead by in Charge CTD Raja Umar Khattab, have arrested two Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorists involved in high profile cases, including that of Amjad Sabri Murder, killing of military policemen and firing on Majlis that had left five people dead last month.

The accused, CM Sindh said, were identified as Ishaq Bobbi and Asim Capri.

A day later the Sindh Government constituted a Joint Interrogation Team (JIT), that to be headed by SSP Intelligence Counter Terrorism Department, Omar Shahid Hamid, to interrogate the high profile cases of murder of Sufi Singer Amjad Sabri, attack on Shia Majlis, killing of Military Policemen and attacks on police personnel.

“On the recommendation of Inspector General of Police, Sindh Karachi a joint Interrogation Team is hereby constituted for the purpose of interrogation in respect of involvement in heinous high profile cases including incident of terrorism, murder of army, rangers and police personal in Karachi, resulting arrest of two personal namely Ishaq alias Boby and Asim alias Capri,” a notification issued by secretary home reads.

Sources said the militants have told interrogators that the they had been involved in  32 more cases including killing of people of Ahmadiyya community. The police will do a forensic test of the cases soon, an official told this scribe on the condition of anonymity.

The accused have further revealed that they believed a former spokesman of Sindh police of SSP rank was involved in the arrest and handing of Aafia Siddiqui to America.

“The officer has always been at top of the hit-list but couldn’t be attacked due to different reasons”. According to police, the officer has been advised to take extra measures for his security as threat still loom over his head.

It is pertinent to mention that last week the administrative judge of the anti terrorism courts in Karachi remanded Ishaq Boby and Asim Capri, both arrested a day earlier following a news conference by CM Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, into police custody for fourteen days here on Tuesday.

Both the accused were produced before the administration judge of ATCs, Naimatullah Phulphoto, which is situated in the remits of Sindh High Court (SHC) amid stern security arrangements.

The Investigation Officer submitted before the judge that the accused have been arrested in case under the charges of possessing explosive material and arms. He further told that the accused were wanted to police in the murder of Amjad Sabri, military policemen and other important case. The IO prayed that the accused should be given in 14-day police remand, which the ATC administrative judge granted.

Published in The Frontier Post 

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

Who has killed Imam?

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By Naimat Khan

It was afternoon of Wednesday, January 17, 2013. I along with journalist friends was having tea at the Karachi Press Club’s garden when a colleague from an international media outlet received a call. The person on phone was Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s spokesman, claiming that his organization had killed Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) lawmaker, Manzar Imam.

Imam, 43, was gunned down a while ago in Orangi area of the city from where he was elected to the provincial assembly of Sindh on MQM’s ticket.

“From when did you start killing people of Tableeghi Jamaat,” the reporter asked LeJ spokesman. “Le, me check,” the spokesman cutoff the phone line. Within minutes, he called the reporter back and said, “We haven’t killed him”.

The TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan was the second to claim responsibility for the attack.

Imam belonged to Deobandi school of thought and had been with Tableeghi Jamaat on preaching missions, his close friends tell.

There was no clue of the killers for more than eight months before the Rangers on September 23, 2015 announced to have arrested a suspect allegedly involved in the assassination.

The alleged killer was MQM man.

According to a statement issued by the Sindh Rangers the paramilitary force arrested the accused during a raid conducted in the Taiser Town area of Karachi.

The Rangers’ spokesperson claimed that the accused, identified as Muhammad Ashiq, was affiliated with the MQM and had confessed of killing MQM legislator and his guard, according to media reports.

The reports also claimed that besides being involved in the murder of MQM MPA, the accused also confessed to killing 12 members of rival political parties and dumping their bodies in different parts of the city using ambulances belonging to MQM’s charity wing Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation.

The statement further said the accused was produced before an anti-terrorism court, which placed him under 90-day preventive detention. He was never tried in the case.

Then some media reports, citing interviews with investigators, claimed that in August 2010, Imam had closely coordinated with law-enforcement agencies in arresting the LeJ militants involved in the assassination of another MQM MPA Raza Haider.

However, on September 22, 2016, a report in a private news channel claimed and even aired the voice of blindfolded MQM Ashfaq aka chief, in which he confessed that Manzar Imam had been murdered the behest of Asfar Hussain.

Another twist in the murder case came when the arrested LeJ militant on Friday claimed that Imam was killed by them.

“Saeed aka Kaloo was directly involved in the murder of Manzar Imam,” Raja Umar Khattab, the cop having busted group of AQIS, LeJ and Sipah-e-Sahaba militants, told The Frontier Post. Khattab says it’s the handiwork of LeJ.

It’s not the first time that several claims have been made regarding involvement of different groups in a single case. In past TTP militants were eliminated for their alleged involvement in Parween Rehman murder case whereas men associated with MQM were also arrested in connection of murder of the female Director of the Orangi Pilot Project. Later the case turned out to be the handiwork of Raheem Swati, an activist of Awami National Party.

“The multiple claims by law enforcers, sometime made in hast with aims, spoil the cases, depriving the victims of justice,” said Saqib Sagheer, a Karachi based reporter covering crime and militancy.

Published in The Frontier Post 

Karachi’s top bomb-maker is dead

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

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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 

Al Qaeda subcontinent branch directed from Afghanistan

By: Naimat Khan

KARACHI: Central Command of the Al Qaeda Indian Sub-Continent is stationed in Baramcha area of Afghanistan, from where it is directing the network, carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan and Bangladesh, it emerged on Wednesday.

“Bengali militants of the same AQIS group, which is behind lawlessness in the city of Karachi, have killed Bangladeshi blogger,” sources told.

Nazimuddin Samad, a Bangladeshi blogger, was hacked with machetes and shot by motorcycle-riding assailants on his way back from class at Jagannath University in Dhaka earlier this month.

He was on a hit list of 84 atheist bloggers that group had compiled and sent to Bangladesh’s Interior Ministry, according to media reports.

The police in Karachi, however, say they had obtained evidences of the group’s terrorist activities inside Pakistani only. However, sources said that Baramcha based command was also directing local militants in Bangladesh.

In Karachi, Officer In-charge Counter Terrorism Department Raja Umar Khattab says, the group has carried out 26 terrorist activities from 2013 to 2014 alone and it was behind the recent attacks on police and Rangers check-posts in the city.

Addressing a news conference here at CTD’s civil lines office on Wednesday Khattab said a terrorist nabbed during encounter on Tuesday night has revealed that Zarar aka Naseem Bhai aka Hanif Bhai aka Ayub Bhai – a former terrorist of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-alami, Karachi who was released from prison – has formed that special group, which has created situation of lawlessness in the city.

“Most of Karachi terror, including recent attacks on law enforcement agencies, is carried out by local youths led by former The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-alami leader”, he said.

According to Khattab, the arrested terrorist, Muhammad Murtaza aka Benam aka Abu Huraira, has told counter terrorism police that Central Command of Al Qaeda Indian Sub-Continent was stationed in Bramcha area of Afghanistan.

“Since the border has been tightened, the group is using USBs and mobile memory cards for conveying messages to terrorists present in Karachi and other parts of the country,” the official said.

“Bengali militants of the same AQIS group, which is behind lawlessness in the city of Karachi, have killed Bangladeshi blogger,”

The CTD conducted a raid at a hideout of the terrorists in Bhambhro Burfat Goth in Gadap Town of the city and as police rounded up the area they started firing. “The better strategy of police left two terrorists, named Abdul Saboor aka Hamad aka Hasan Aka Saad and Muhammad Mujtaba aka Rehan aka Aslam aka Kashif aka Wali aka Abdul Rehman dead whereas Muhammad Murtaza was arrested,” Khattab told.

The terrorists, police said, had setup a bomb manufacturing factory in an empty water tank inside the house.

Police have recovered 80 Kg explosive, circuits, ball bearings, bottle bombs, ball bombs, bomb manufacturing material, laptop, memory cards, USBs, target list, one motorcycle filled with explosive, two Ak47, one 9mm pistol and Jihadi literature from the spot.

The arrested terrorist has made startling revelations that youths, called ‘Dawati Sathi’, associated with Harkatul Muhajideen would run the network in Shadman Town, North Karachi, Surjani, Orangi and Korangi towns of the city. The group would brainwash the youth who would remain associated with any Jihadi group.

To a question Khattab said that three different groups of Al Qaeda, attracting manpower from different classes, were active in the city. “One group from affluent neighborhoods is brainwashing youths, the second group – the one busted on Wednesday – carries out bomb attacks whereas a third group, compromised of Burmese, Bengalis and other locals militants from local class, are carrying out targeted attacks,” he elaborated.

To another Question, senior interrogator said, there was no presence of Daish – also called Islamic State – though there were militants inspired from the Middle Eastern terror group. “May be some militants are inspired but there is no evidence of presence of Daish network anywhere on Pakistani soil,” Khattab said.

Published in The Frontier Post

Terrorist moms

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Police unveils a large network of women jihadists

Naimat Khan

Terrorist moms


Counter-terrorism officials in Karachi believe more than 100 women from affluent households are part of a lethal terrorist network that lies somewhere between Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

The revelation came as police made new arrests related to the Safoora terrorist attack in May, in which 43 Shia Ismaili passengers of a bus were shot and killed one by one.

In July, police had arrested Sadia Jalal, a university teacher and the third wife of a leader of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, accusing her of “facilitating the suspects of the Safoora carnage.” The woman “had been brainwashing students for recruiting them in a terrorist outfit” police said. The involvement of a woman, who is also a university teacher, in a high-profile terrorist attack caused concerns.

On December 18, the counter-terrorism department (CTD) said new arrests had been made. “We have arrested people who had been providing financial support and facilitation to, and brainwashing terrorists since long,” the department’s chief Raja Umar Khattab told reporters in a news conference. Among the detained suspects was Khalid Yousaf Bari, a former employee of Pakistan International Airlines. Bari told interrogators that his wife Naheed Bari had established a religious group – Al Zikra Academy – whose top members include more than 20 well-off women.

Naheed Baji mentored more than one hundred women

The network is accused of collecting donations, brainwashing new members, proliferating jihadist propaganda, and even helping alleged terrorists find suitable spouses. As police expand their probe, intelligence sources say many of the women suspects are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and daughters-in-laws of male suspects linked to the Safoora terrorist attack.

“They brainwashed women in the name of Islamic education,” Raja Umar Khattab said, “and collected Zakat, alms and donations for financing terrorism.”

Naheed Baji, as she was called by other members of the group, mentored more than one hundred women, Raja Umar Khattab told me. “Many of the group’s active members have been identified,” he said. “Almost every member of about twenty ‘Jihadi families’ carried out one task or another for the terrorist group. These families are strongly tied to each other through intermarriages.”

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Naheed collected around Rs 215,000 a month in donations, chiefly from such affluent localities as Baloch Colony, Bahadurabad and PCEHS. Other identified female suspects include Tahmeena, the wife of a male suspect Adil Masood Butt, who has been accused of providing financial help to the group that carried out the Safoora but attack.

The mother and wife of a key terror suspect Saad Aziz are also alleged members of the network.

Although such women have largely been seen as only facilitators in the past, Islamabad-based journalist and militancy expert Hasan Abdullah said in a previous interview that female members of such groups often played part in active warfare. “They range from suicide attackers, to teachers, spies, technical experts, doctors and much more.”

“The San Bernardino shooting has shown that women are equally capable of doing brutal murderous things, under the influence of a warped ideology,” said Reem Wasay, the op-ed editor at Daily Times.

“The family structure of modern Jihadists and the role of their women had largely been hidden from the eyes of law enforcement officials so far,” Raja Umar Khattab said, adding that it took him several years of investigation to expose the network.

“The women preachers first give lectures on the basics of Islam to affluent women, and then use their influence to stress the importance of establishing a Muslim caliphate,” he said. “Those who are receptive are made part of their circle.”

“They are suicide attackers, teachers, spies, technical experts, doctors and more”

“It is alarming that such a large number of women are involved in helping in the planning and financing of terrorism,” one investigator said. “It is equally alarming that highly educated men, including many who studied abroad, are being indoctrinated to carry out such acts.”

Tahmeena’s husband Adil Masood Butt, who the CTD has arrested for financing terrorism, went to Indiana University for a BBA and the New York Fordham University for an MBA. When he came back, he set up the College of Accountancy and Management Science with some friends. “The institute has three campuses, where 2,000 students are enrolled at various levels,” police says. He met Naheed’s husband Khalid Yousaf Bari, and another Safoora attack suspect Sheeba Ahmed, when he was part of Dr Israr Ahmed’s Tanzeem-e-Islami. He left the organization subsequently to join Al Qaeda. He had also been associated with the proscribed Hizbut Tahrir.

“Tanzeem-e-Islami pursues a non-violent agenda, but its advocacy for the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate is sometimes used by groups who turn to violence,” said Muhammad Saqib, a Karachi based journalist covering militancy. At a time when Pakistan is trying to develop counter-narratives against terrorist ideology, he said religious groups will have to strive to protect their teachings from being misused by terrorists.

The writer is a Karachi based journalist

Email: undisclosedtruth@gmail.com

Twitter: @NKMalazai