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Terror group in Pak splits for better coordination

November 18, 2010 16:36 IST

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a notorious anti-Shia terrorist group accused of having links with Al Qaeda, has split into at least eight small cells to better coordinate its activities across Pakistan, according to a media report.

"The creation of the cells is aimed at coordinating the banned group's activities in the area ranging from the southern port city of Karachi to Waziristan in the restive tribal belt bordering Afghanistan," the Express Tribune newspaper quoted its sources in Kohat, Hangu, Peshawar and Lahore as saying.

"Each sub-group is responsible for carrying out activities in a specific geographic location," one of the sources said.

Individuals with connections within the LeJ and intelligence officials tracking the group said the move appeared to be an attempt to outsmart law enforcement agencies.

"It looks like (LeJ strategists) don't want to put all their eggs in one basket," said an unnamed intelligence official.

"It's a typical guerrilla warfare and urban militancy technique. With scattered cells, they have better chances of survival by diverting the focus of law enforcement agencies."

The LeJ, which is dominated by militants from Punjab, has established hideouts inside North Waziristan tribal region, which is controlled by the network of Afghan Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani.

While there are no significant signs suggesting that the Haqqani network is directly supporting LeJ activists, security officials contend the two groups have a strong commonality connecting them -- both are staunch allies of Al Qaeda.

The daily quoted its sources as saying that the LeJ's cell for Karachi and Balochistan has been named "Jundullah" but it operates separately from an existing organisation of the same name, led by separatist Iranian Sunnis, that is active in the same region.

"That's where intelligence agencies' personnel are often mistaken. They sometimes confuse activists from one group with the other," an unnamed official in the Crime Investigation Department of Sindh province said.

The LeJ is the biggest terrorist group operating in Karachi and 94 of 246 terrorists arrested in the city since 2001 belonged to it, according to a secret report of the CID.

The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi headed by Maulana Abdul Khalil, a fugitive militant leader from Punjab, operates mostly in central parts of Punjab and the tribal areas.

The group works closely with Al Qaeda and its activists are used as "foot soldiers" for Arab-dominated terror plots inside Pakistan.

The Asian Tigers is another offshoot of the LeJ that emerged to claim responsibility for the kidnapping of a British journalist of Pakistani origin and two former Inter-Services Intelligence officials.

The Asian Tigers too is dominated by Punjabi militants though some rebels from the Mehsud tribe are affiliated with it.

Junoodul Hafsa is another cell comprising militants who have vowed to exact revenge for the storming of Islamabad's Lal Masjid and its affiliated female seminary, Jamia Hafsa, by the army in 2007.

The group operates closely with Ghazi Force, a network named after one of the two clerics of Lal Masjid, Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, who was killed in the operation.

The cell operates from Ghaljo area of Orakzai tribal region and the adjacent Hangu district and targets military personnel and installations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and Punjab.

Several small cells operate under the umbrella of the Punjabi Taliban, including those led by Qari Imran, Amjad Farooqi and Qari Zafar.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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