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TTP targets Karachi police officers
April 5 attack part of on-going campaign against police
By Zia Ur Rehman
KARACHI – Police officers who have been working to destroy the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its linked militant organisations in Karachi are on the TTP’s hit list, police officers and security analysts said.
The April 5 suicide bombing of Senior Superintendent of Police Rao Anwar’s convoy is one recent example, security officials said. Five people – including Lal Badshah Babar, 50, a Karachi-based Pashtun actor and artist – were killed and 18 others were injured in the attack. Anwar was not hurt.
“I was moving with my squad to Malir court for a meeting with a judge regarding an enquiry into the March 24 murder of former Malir Bar Association president Salahuddin Haider and his son Ali at Malir Halt,” when the bomber struck, Anwar recalled.
The leader of the Jundullah militant outfit in the tribal areas claimed responsibility for killing Haider and his son, Radio Mashaal reported March 25.
Anwar has been involved with the arrests and deaths of a number of militants, including a December 12 police raid on a Karachi madrassa, in which police rescued students who had been chained in a basement and reportedly beaten.
He had been receiving threats from militants for a month before the assassination attempt and has been travelling in an armoured personnel carrier for his protection. Due to the threats, Anwar said he reduced his squad to prevent a major loss of life if terrorists attacked.
On April 7, unidentified armed men shot and killed a police officer near the Malik Agha Hotel in Sohrab Goth, media reported. Seven others were injured.
Authorities suspect the same perpetrators committed both crimes, said Asghar Ali, a local police official.
The attacks arouse concern that a new and increasing pattern of targeting policemen has emerged, security analysts said.
Taliban militants remain the biggest threat to Karachi’s peace, security analyst Muhammad Amir Rana told Central Asia Online. Hounded by military operations in the tribal areas, TTP militants are increasingly moving to Karachi, where they obtain logistical and manpower support from militant outfits already established in the city, said Rana, who heads the Pak Institute of Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think tank.
Police respond to attack
President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the suicide attack on Anwar. He expressed grief over the killings and said such incidents would not deter the government’s resolve to fight terrorism.
Anwar April 6 registered a complaint against suspended police inspector Azam Mehsud, his brother Sher Zaman Mehsud and TTP militant Zubair Mehsud in connection with the attack on him.
Anwar and Chaudhry Aslam, a senior Criminal Investigation Department (CID) official, have arrested many of Azam’s associates on charges of extorting money from businesses and sending it to South Waziristan, apparently to help fund militants.
On April 7, about 10 suspects were in custody at an undisclosed location in connection with the attempt on Anwar’s life, Express Tribune reported April 8.
The case indicates that no one with militant ties is exempt in the government’s fight against terrorism, Ahmed Chinoy, chief of the Citizens Police Liaison Committee, said.
“What we have to do is take action against the terrorists from within the community,” Chinoy said. “We have found them hiding in the media and in the police.”
TTP has hit list of Karachi police
The April attempt to kill Anwar was the Taliban’s first suicide attack this year against a senior policeman. At least six similar attacks occurred in 2011.
Aslam was among those targeted earlier.
Militants attacked Aslam’s house September 19, killing eight people, after repeatedly failing to kill him at his office. Two days later, TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan issued a hit list that included then-Karachi Capital City Police Officer Saud Mirza and Karachi police senior officers Raja Umar Khitab, Farooq Awan, Mazhar Mashwani and Khurram Waris.
Aslam survived a November 2010 car bombing that killed at least 30 people and destroyed the main CID office in Karachi. Aslam and three other CID senior officials – Fayyaz Khan, Omar Shahid and Mashwani – were reportedly the targets; all survived.
The militants have announced huge rewards for anyone who kills police officers on their hit list, Aslam said.
“The TTP have decided to target all those officers who are involved in crackdown against them, but we have decided to target them, too,” he said.
In 2011, Karachi police arrested 222 suspected militants in connection with charges of beheading civilians, attacking security forces and committing other crimes in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas, Aslam said.