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Questions over Pak arrests

June 16, 2004

On June 14, the paramilitary Rangers in Karachi announced Dawood Badini's arrest in connection with two suicide bombings in Quetta in Balochistan over the last two years which killed over 100 Shias, mostly from the Hazara tribe.

Badani, projected as the kingpin of the the Sunni extremist Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Balochistan, is also said to be behind the assassination of 12 Shia police recruits in Quetta on June 8 last year.  

Separately, eight suspects allegedly involved in the attack on the convoy of Lieutenant General Ahsan Saleem Hyat, the Karachi corps commander, on June 10 and one suspect (Gul Hasan of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) allegedly involved in organising suicide attacks on Shias in the Hyderi mosque and Imambargah Ali Raza of Karachi last month were produced before the Karachi anti-terrorism court on June 14. It remanded them to police custody for two weeks.

The eight suspects said to have been involved in the attack on the convoy of the corps commander were described by the police as belonging to a hitherto unknown organisation called Jundullah (Army of Allah).They are:  

  • Ata-ur-Rehman alias Ibrahim alias Umer alias Uzair Ahmed, described as the Amir of the Jundullah.
  • Shahzad Ahmed Bajwa, described as the deputy Amir.
  • Shoaib Siddiqui
  • Yaqoob Seed Khan alias Roomi
  • Uzair Ahmed alias Kashif
  • Danish Imam alias Shami
  • Najeebullah alias Atif
  • Khurram Shaif alias Anas

The police claimed to have recovered a large quantity of arms and ammunition from them -- including three weapons snatched from the security detachment accompanying the corps commander -- and alleged that they were also responsible for other terrorist incidents in Karachi before June 10. 

'The Jundullah group is a new terror group which has links with Al Qaeda, and their members have been trained in Wana, (the capital of South Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas),' Karachi Inspector General of Police Kamal Shah told reporters. He said at least 20 members of the Jundullah had been identified and there could be more. They were all from Karachi. According to the police, Attaur Rehman had a master's degree in statistics from Karachi University.

While the arrests of the eight members of the Jundullah have been projected by Faisal Saleh Hayat, the Pakistani interior minister, as a 'phenomenal breakthrough in the war against terrorism,' many in Karachi are still sceptical about the importance of these arrests and their role in the attack on the corps commander's convoy.

            Interview: Faisal Saleh Hayat

In support of their scepticism, they point out that immediately after the ambush, eyewitnesses described the terrorists who ambushed the convoy as clean-shaven. The terrorists had hijacked the car which they used for the ambush from people who too described them as clean-shaven. After examining them and the eye-witnesses, the police had disseminated sketches of the wanted suspects, which also showed them as clean-shaven.

But all the suspects of Jundullah produced in court had beards.

The police have not been able to explain this discrepancy.

Initially, the Karachi police described the arrested suspects as belonging to the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (Al Alami, or International), but subsequently they started describing them as members of a new group called the Jundullah, which had been trained by Uzbek elements belonging to Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front in South Waziristan in October-November last year.                               

While Interior Minister Hayat described the eight remanded suspects, including their leader, as of Central Asian origin, the Karachi police have described them as Pakistanis belonging to Karachi.

On the night of June 13, the interior minister also announced the arrest by the Karachi police of one Massob Arooshi, described as the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who used to be projected by the Americans as the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist strikes

The curious case of Khalid Sheikh

Masoob Arooshi was reportedly arrested  from the house of one Abbas Khan, a former divisional engineer of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited, who is stated to be the father of Javed Abbas, a serving deputy superintendent of police in Sindh.

According to Lahore's Daily Times, a Shia cleric from Gilgit working in Karachi tipped off the police about the presence of Arooshi in Abbas Khan's home. Another Shia cleric had tipped off the police in March last year about Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's presence in Rawalpindi, it said. Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested by the Pakistani authorities from the house of a leader of the women's wing of the Jammat-e-Islami, with relatives in the army. It is not known whether Abbas Khan also belonged to the Jammat-e-Islami.

Since last year, I have been pointing out in my articles that the upsurge of attacks on Shias in Karachi, Gilgit and Balochistan was related to the US-led hunt for the dregs of Al Qaeda. That the anti-Shia incidents were in retaliation for their suspected cooperation with US intelligence agencies and for their role in assisting the US agencies in Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's arrest.

I had also mentioned that the Shias, particularly the Hazaras of Balochistan, were helping the US agencies in retaliation for the massacre of the Hazaras of Afghanistan by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi before 9/11.

Masoob Arooshi has not been produced in court. This has given rise to speculation that he may have been handed over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and flown out to Diego Garcia for interrogation.

Many in Karachi claim that Masoob Arooshi was actually arrested on a tip off by the US authorities, who, in turn, got their information from the Shia cleric. The Shias suspect that the Pakistani police is mixed up with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and other elements of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front and would not, therefore, take their information to the Pakistani police, they believe. They would prefer giving their information to US officials since they feel that the US officials would ensure that the person pointed out by them is arrested by the Pakistani authorities.

Interestingly, after the arrests in Karachi, the Pakistani authorities announced the end of the joint operations by its army and the air force against the dregs of Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front in South Waziristan with effect from June 14. According to official accounts, the operations, which started on June 8, had resulted in the death of 55 suspected terrorists and 19 members of the security forces.

The Pakistani officials have projected those killed and captured as of Central Asian origin. Other reports of the intense fighting in the area also speak of the involvement of Uighurs from the Xinjiang province of China in the fighting against the army.

According to police sources, about 50 to 100 Uighurs from Xinjiang province trained by Uzbek and Chechen elements of the International Islamic Front have joined the fight against the Pakistan army. It is said Uighurs were responsible for the recent attacks on Chinese engineers in the Gwadar area of Balochistan and near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. The two incidents resulted in the death of 15 Chinese engineers.

'China is the cruellest country in the world'

It is reported that faced with severe repression by the Chinese authorities in the Xinjiang province which made any operations by them inside Xinjiang impossible, they have decided to attack Chinese nationals in Afghanistan and Pakistan in retaliation for the repression in Xinjiang. It is not known to which organisation they belong.

More attacks on soft Chinese targets are likely.

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