LAHORE - Dozens of terrorists are killed and hundreds of their accomplices have been arrested as paramilitary forces dug deeper into the Punjab province as part of the latest military operation, codenamed as Raddul Fasaad.
Most of the arrests were made during the security operations launched in big cities and urban parts of the province since February. And many among those arrested from the Punjab province appear to be Pakhtuns rather than Punjabis.
A senior official last week confirmed to The Nation that more than 900 terror suspects including Afghans and ISIS members were arrested from the Punjab province during the last one and a half month. He further said that no less than 35 terrorists including many members of the so-called Islamic State group were also killed during armed encounters which took place in different districts of the Punjab province.
Several engineers, doctors, vendors and religious activists are said to be among those arrested for having links to terror groups. They were detained from Lahore, DG Khan, Rawalpindi, Sialkot, Attock, Hassanabdal, Narowal, Shakargarh, Rajanpur and Bahawalpur districts.
Some high-ranking officers spoke to this reporter on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to share details of the raids involving security, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies. During background interviews, they said that the next two months would be more crucial with regard to the security operations against terror facilitators.
A senior official of the Punjab’s Counter-Terrorism Department said that they had intensified raids across the province to unearth the suspected militants and their facilitators. “At least three dozen terrorists have been killed by security forces in Punjab since February. Most of the terrorists were killed by the firing of their own accomplices as police and paramilitary forces raided their hideouts,” the official said. “The latest security operation (being dubbed as combing or search operations) were conducted as the department received actionable intelligence from multiple sources”.
Military sources say the security forces conducted many successful operations on the information provided by arrested terrorists during interrogation. “The anti-terror squads last month conducted several operations back-to-back in big cities of Punjab,” they said. They also seized huge cache of explosives and firearms during the operations.
Sources further revealed that the counter-terror operatives are put on their toes in the Punjab province where paramilitary troops are also engaged in the security sweep. “All the operations were targeted and based on actionable intelligence. Therefore, the forces made important arrests in all such raids,” a security official said. “Some key suspects were put under surveillance even several days before the scheduled raids on their hideouts,” a source said.
Pakistan Army launched ‘Operation Raddul Fasaad’ across the country during the last week of February. As part of this anti-terror campaign, Air Force, Pakistan Navy, civil armed forces and other security and law enforcement agencies are actively taking part in the operations to help armed forces eliminate the menace of terrorism from the country.
Security experts said the latest army operation is aimed at eliminating ‘extremist mindset’ from the country following the success of previous military operations codenamed as Operation Rah-e-Rast, Rah-e-Nijat, and Zarb-e-Azb.
Last month, at least 26 suspects were arrested in Punjab during operations jointly carried out by paramilitary troops, police and intelligence agencies. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media wing of the Pakistan Army, the raids were part of operation Raddul Fasaad, the latest operation launched by the army to intensify action against terrorists.
The military’s media wing by the end of February claimed that Punjab Rangers conducted 200 search operations across the province under the operation Raddul Fasaad. They killed four militants and also arrested over 600 suspects. These operations were carried out in Karor, Layyah, and Rawalpindi districts.
Reportedly, paramilitary troopers are searching suspected houses, seminaries, plazas and shops to hunt down terror suspects and their supporters in Punjab. At least 10 members of the self-styled ISIS group were also killed by security forces during the last month in Punjab.
Security experts believe that the new army operation Raddul Fasaad has proved a big blow to the terror outfits, non-state-actors and their local facilitators. They also expect more raids and arrests in the near future as security forces are grilling hundreds of terror suspects at various facilities.