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April 19, 2016

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Army launches full-scale offensive against Chhotu gang

BAHAWALPUR/MULTAN: Helicopter gunships on Monday pounded the hideout of the Chhotu gang that has been holding 24 hostages on a 10-km long katcha stretch in the centre of the Indus River, media and army sources said.

On Sunday night, emergency was enforced in the three main hospitals of the region including Sheikh Zayed Hospital Rahim Yar Khan, DHQ Rajanpur, THQ Sadiqabad, Rojhan and other hospitals to deal with any eventuality. The people of the area are fully supporting this military operation against the gang. 

The operation involving more than 2,000 security forces has been ongoing for two weeks and the army’s push to deploy troops, artillery and helicopter gunships is an unprecedented use of force by the military in Punjab.

“We (the army) had given the Chhotu gang until 2pm on Monday to surrender, but they did not abide by the deadline,” said a military official based in Rajanpur district in southern Punjab where the battle is taking place.

“Now there is no option left but a full-scale operation, which has started.” It was unclear just how many members of the Chhotu gang, blamed for hundreds of casesof kidnapping for ransom, murder and robbery, were trapped in the katcha area, but police said their families were believed to be accompanying them.

Geo News showed troops firing guns at the island and gunship helicopters flying overhead in the operation that started at 4PM.  Inter-Services Public Relations announced that Multan Corps Commander Lt Gen Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed had arrived earlier in the day "to see preparation for impending operation against criminals". 

Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur district police officers – Zeeshan Asghar and Mubashar Mekan – when contacted on Monday avoided sharing any progress on the operation. The Rahim Yar Khan police officials also posted the operation picture on social media. “No mobile phone service has been suspended in the River Indus delta where Chhotu has established his hideouts,” RY Khan DPO Zeeshan Asghar told The News.

 

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