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By Zia Ur Rehman and Javed Mahmood
KARACHI – Four officers of the Sindh Police Criminal Investigation Department (CID) who shattered the network of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other banned organisations in Karachi, were key targets of the November 11 bombing of the CID building but escaped injury, Central Asia Online has learned.
The deadly attack began as an armed assualt and ended with a truck bomb that killed at least 20 people and wounded about 100 others, including women and children. The police reportedly used the building to detain and interrogate suspects accused of belonging to TTP and other banned organisations.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Chaudry Aslam Khan, SSP Fayyaz Khan, SSP Omar Shahid and SP Mazhar Mashwani were the main targets, a CID official told the Central Asia Online.
That four-man team oversees the anti-extremism cell and runs counter-terrorism operations in the city. It arrested hundreds of key leaders of the TTP, Lashkar-e-Janghvi (LeJ) and other banned jihadi organisations in a massive crackdown in Karachi, the official added.
“At the time of attack, luckily the four officers were not present at the building,” said the official.
First four attackers' fates unknown
The four terrorists who entered the building before the blast might be dead, police officials said November 12.
“Four attackers penetrated the CID building by jumping over the wall a few minutes before the blast, and they exchanged bullets with the police,” Iftikhar Tarar, deputy inspector general of investigation in the CID of Karachi, told Central Asia Online.
“We believe that all the four attackers have also lost their lives in the bomb blast,” he said. “It would be premature to say anything about the attackers who remained outside the building.”
So far authorities know of nine policemen among the dead, he said.
He said the death toll could rise if rescue workers recover more bodies under the debris.
The initial investigation showed that ten attackers hit the building, Sindh inspector general of police Salahuddin Babar Khattak said. Investigators are tracing the culprits' identities, he added.
Counter-terror team had solid resume
The four-man CID counter-terrorist team had arrested six LeJ activists November 10. It linked the suspects to Asif Ramzi’s faction, which allegedly was involved in deadly attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas. The arrested suspects allegedly were planning sectarian killings in the city during the Islamic holy month of Muharram.
On the same day, Aslam Khan arrested Iqbal Bajauri, a militant leader from Bajaur Agency and a close aide of Maulana Faqir Muhammad, TTP’s central leader, from Minghophir.
In 2002, militants sent parcel bombs to some senior police officers, including then-Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil and Fayyaz Khan.
Fayyaz Khan was critically injured. Some credit him with arresting more than 100 high-profile terrorist suspects linked to the TTP and LeJ this year.
The CID has largely broken the TTP’s network in the city by arresting several consecutive amirs (heads) appointed for Karachi, including Akhter Zaman Mehsud and his successors, Bahadur Khan Momand (alias Sadiq) and Maulvi Saeed Anwer, a CID official said. The official said Aslam Khan and his team snatched them all.
The TTP swiftly took responsibility for the blast, saying it was meant to avenge “the arrest” of its comrades. However, Interior Minister Rehman Malik November 12 disputed that claim, saying the LeJ committed the bombing.
“By attacking the CID building, they want to give us a message that they are still alive and could strike back,” Shahid told Central Asia Online, adding that the CID will continue its anti-militant crackdown.
The militants raise funds through extortion, armed robberies and kidnappings and send the money to tribal areas where the TTP-linked militants plan terrorist acts, Shahid said. Dozens of arrests by the CID have disrupted militant fund-raising in the city, he added.
Some police sources theorise that the militants were trying to free Bajauri. However, he was not in the building.
CID attack harms civilians
Civilian casualties in the neighbourhood were numerous. A dozen houses in the nearby Civil Lines residential neighbourhood sustained damage, Moqeem Alam, a local MPA, told Central Asia Online. Most of the civilians injured were women and children, he said. Authorities have suspended gas, electricity and water service because of damage to pipelines.
Police, military and paramilitary contingents have closed off public access to the area. Authorities are searching the neighbourhood for any attackers who escaped.
“We were watching the news on TV when the firing started, then suddenly lights went out, and we heard a massive blast,” said Zarshad, a local resident who is hospitalised after a concrete slab hit him.
Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, accompanied by provincial Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, visited the blast site to review the rescue and relief work. Shah gave assurances of the government's all-out support for the victims and said the government would keep fighting terrorism.