DSP among hostages, another missing; operation suspended to review strategy
LAHORE: Ten policemen were martyred and another 25 were taken hostage, which led to the suspension of the operation against the Chhotu Gang on Wednesday.
It is learnt two boats carrying 42 police men advanced on positions of dacoits who fired at them. SHO Hanif Ghauri , Head Constable Ajmal, constables Tanvir, Ubaidullah alias Fahim, Amanullah, Zabihullah were martyred. Four injured policemen were shifted to Shaikh Zayed Hospital, Rahim Yar Khan, while 25 including DSP Asif Rasheed, SI Abid, Shafi Elahi are among the hostages. DSP Mujahid is reported missing.
The Operation Zarb-e-Aahan has been suspended till the formulation of new strategy.
Rajanpur DPO Ghulam Mubashir Mekan said around 200 criminals had rendered the 30-kilometre islandi-like area into a no-go area. They are armed with sophisticated weapons.
On the other hand, there are reports that five dacoits were also killed in the gunfight. Fifteen others had been injured but they escaped.
Given the latest developments, additional contingents of police and Rangers have been called in. The IGP has requested for two army helicopters for carrying out operation. It is learnt that the besieged dacoits have been asked to surrender before air strike. Besides other people, women and children have been warned for the last time to leave the area immediately.
Ghulam Rasool alias Chhotu talked to the DG Khan RPO using a wireless set snatched from the police, and listed the names of hostages. He demanded police lift their siege, or they would kill hostages one by one.
A Punjab Police spokesperson in a handout said the joint operation, which was started on April 05 in the riverine area of Rajanpur’s Rojhan tehsil against the criminal gangs and terrorists was moving ahead and would continue till achieving the targets.
On Wednesday morning, as the force moved towards the Chhotu Gang’s hideouts, the criminals started firing. The policemen retaliated, which resulted in the death of notorious deputy commander of Chhotu Gang Pehalwan alias Pallu. Several of his companions were also injured, the spokesperson claimed.
During encounter, three constables – Qazi Ubaid, Amanullah and Ajmal – were martyred, while others – Haq Nawaz, Ayaz, Saeed and Aftab received injuries. Some police officials could not be contacted due to communication issues.
A couple of days ago, a notorious ringleader of Chhotu Gang Ali Gul Bazgeer and his brother ‘Pandi’ were also killed by the forces. Bazgeer was involved in 19 cases including murders, robberies and kidnappings. He was also involved in the kidnapping of DG Khan EDO (Health) Dr Mushtaq Rasool and dozens of other people in 2013. The government had fixed head money on Bazgeer, a close associate of Chhotu who had personally trained him.
Efforts were made to contact the IGP but his phone was not responding, while the Punjab Police spokesperson refused to comment on the operational details.
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