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March 24, 2019

Probe into attack on Mufti Taqi Usmani disrupted as key online tool stops working


March 24, 2019

Karachi: Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) is a key tool used in the investigations of high profile cases. Sindh’s only IBIS, however, has strangely stopped working when the entire investigation into Friday’s high profile assassination attempt is relying on this most important apparatus.

Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, a respected religious scholar who served as a Federal Shariat Court judge from 1982 to 2002 and is currently the vice-president of Darul Uloom Korangi, Karachi, came under attack when at least six armed assailants riding on three motorcycles targeted him in Gulshan-e-Iqbal while he was on his way along with his wife and two grandchildren to Baitul Mukkaram Masjid for leading the Friday prayers as it was his weekly routine.

The religious scholar and his family members escaped the assassination attempt unhurt. However, the armed attack took the lives of two of his security guards, including a policeman, and caused injuries to two drivers.

Police investigators collected at least 15 empty pistol shells from the crime scene and sent them to the forensic division of the Sindh police for ballistics cross-matching. However, the report could not be generated as the IBIS was unfortunately not working.

Sources privy to the matter informed The News that the IBIS had developed some error since the last few days and the experts were trying to repair the fault. “Basically, the fault is not in the IBIS itself. The system is not working because of system upgradation,” said Sindh Police Forensic Division AIG SSP Muqaddas Haider.

“It was our misfortune that the machine’s upgradation started hours before the [attack on] Mufti Usmani occurred and as it is a heavy system, it takes time to upgrade,” the officer said, adding that the IBIS was an online system and foreign experts were looking for resolving the matter and by Sunday.

The IBIS uses sophisticated electronic and optical technology to digitally compare the evidence with information stored in its database. The IBIS holds ballistic signatures for over 15,000 guns in its database. “There is no fear of loss of any data from the machine,” AIG Haider claimed. “Soon its upgrade will be completed and we will be able to conduct cross-matching of the empties recovered in the Mufti Usmani’s attempted assassination.”

The law enforces have received significant help from the IBIS in the past. The system made it possible for the law enforcement agencies to bust a sleeper cell of the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, being run by Asim, alias Capri, and Ishaq, alias Bobby, who were involved in the murder of 72 persons between 2015 and 2016.

Meanwhile, the investigators are also employing other methods to trace the attackers like geo-fencing. They have conducted the geo-fencing of the crime scene and its surroundings as they suspect that the attackers might have used mobile phones before or after the attack.

The investigators have also confiscated the registration number plate of a motorcycle which they found from the crime scene as the registration plate might be of one of the motorcycles the attackers rode. “The registration plate was green and ‘Sindh government’ was written on it. It had a number of Sukkur region,” a source explained.

“A data of around six mobile phone towers located on Rashid Minhas Road and Dalmia areas have been collected,” a senior investigation officer revealed. “The locations of the suspected phone calls have also been traced which could prove helpful in the investigation.”

The investigators also disclosed that the perpetrators carried out the attack after a recce of several weeks or months. The LEAs also suspect that foreign elements were involved in the incident which used local elements to carry out the attack.

The investigation teams have also obtained footage from the CCTV cameras installed on Rashid Minhas Road which showed that the attackers first stayed near Millennium Mall and then followed Mufti Usmani’s car before targeting him on the NIPA flyover. “The motorcycles’ riders wore caps while the attackers sitting on their back wore helmets,” a source revealed. “It is also yet to be ascertained whether a single weapon was used in the attack or two or more than two.”

Combing operations

The Aziz Bhatti police have registered an FIR No 176/19 under Sections 302, 324/34 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism act against unidentified suspects. The case was registered on behalf of Aziz Bhatti SHO Adeel Afzal Hussain.

Around 45 suspects were detained during overnight combing operations by the police in the Dalmia, Gulistan-e-Jauhar and Gulshan-e-Iqbal areas on the night between Friday and Saturday under the supervision of Gulshan Division SP Tahir Noorani.

District East SSP Ghulam Azfar Mahesar said the entry and exit points of the areas were sealed during house-to-house search. The arrested suspects' identities were biometrically verified after which most of the suspects were released.

Funeral prayers

The funeral prayers for Muhammad Farooq, the police constable who embraced martyrdom in the assassination attempt on Mufti Usmani, were attended by a large number of dignitaries, including Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Sindh Dr Syed Kaleem Imam, Additional IG Karachi Dr Amir Shaikh and senior officers of the Pakistan Army, Rangers and police.

The IGP Sindh offered condolences to the martyred constable’s family and assured them that the killers would be arrested soon. The police chief also announced compensation for the family.

Earlier on Friday night, the funeral prayers for Mufti Usmani’s security guard Sanobar Khan, the other man who died in the incident, were offered in Mansehra Colony in Landhi.