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Daesh cell behind Hazarganji bombing unearthed

National

June 24, 2019

KARACHI: The Quetta Counter Terrorism Department and intelligence agencies have achieved a major headway by busting a local Daesh cell and decapitating its handler, instrumental in conducting several attacks, including the Hazarganji market bombing in April.

The string of attacks included aborted suicide bombing on a Quetta Imambargah in May, followed by the killing of a policeman, and deadly mine attacks against families vacationing in Ziarat during the Eid holidays. “All these attacks were traced to a single Daesh cell,” confirmed a senior Quetta based security officer.

Similarly, a TTP cell was found to be involved in the motorcycle-borne IED attack against a police mobile outside a Quetta mosque on May13, martyring four policemen, the sources said. For the attack on police mobile, according to police investigations, the IED was brought from Afghanistan “all intact and packed around the motorbike.”

By and large, Quetta and suburbs have largely been insulated against terrorists and aliens and the intelligence network has improved, Quetta CTD sources claim, making “it difficult to put together an explosive device in that vicinity. “But facilitators are available to pick and drop terrorists prepared by the hostile agencies in Afghanistan, arrange logistics, etc.” “For this attack, the TTP cell smuggled the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) from Afghanistan,” the CTD and intelligence sources said.

Sources strongly believe the “motorcycle packed with explosives (VBIED)” was smuggled from Chaman border during one of the daily crossings from Afghanistan and brought to Quetta through a network of unfrequented and uncommon routes across the rugged terrain, hilly tracks and forests by local facilitators. Two terrorist hideouts in Chaman comprising terrorists trained in handling of explosives was also busted as a result of information gleaned by the facilitators arrested in the aftermath of the attack on police mobile, CTD and intelligence sources confirmed.

But the Hazarganji market attack was carried out by a Daesh cell run by Jamil Mengal, the CTD sources confirmed. This Daesh cell also killed a policeman, and executed deadly mine attacks against two families vacationing in Ziarat during the Eid holidays. The same cell also carried out an aborted suicide bombing on a Quetta Imambargah in May in which the suicide bomber was killed by a police officer deployed.

A few days later “the handler of this Daesh cell, Jamil Mengal was killed in Quetta by police when Mengal attacked a Quetta traffic policeman on duty. In retaliation, the most wanted handler of the Daesh cell was gunned down by other policemen.

“This was purely coincidental and brought down one of the most wanted terrorist handlers,” intelligence sources confirmed. “Two to three other terrorists of that cell were also killed in an intelligence based operation,” while two others are on the run who are being actively pursued, the intelligence officer in know of things confided.

Following the rout of calpihate in the Middle East, the ISIS announced creation of Islamic State Pakistan Province, under the larger Khorasan province comprising Central Asia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Intelligence agencies have reported “movement of Daesh elements in southern and eastern Balochistan from neighbouring Afghanistan. They were on a recruiting drive from amongst the disgruntled elements of Sunni proscribed and terrorist organisations.”

The Hazarganji bombing was carried out by a lone suicide bomber. The “DNA of the Hazarganji suicide bomber is currently being matched for firm identification against family members.” This suicide bomber is said to be the brother-in-law of the Daesh cell handler Jamil Mengal. “If the DNA matches with Mengal’s in-laws that would be the final piece of the complicated puzzle,” the officer said.

There were other operations against Daesh cells too.

In early May, the intelligence agencies and CTD Balochistan mounted a 12-hour long successful operation against a Daesh cell located among the hillocks of Kabu Koh Mehran in Mastung. “Some were killed, while others were arrested in the operation and we were able to get a wealth of information,” a CTD source confirmed. The hideout is ideally located with escape routes to Khuzdar, Nasirabad in Balochistan and Sindh, the security sources said. This particular camp was used by Balach Marri in 2008 and other insurgent groups too, signifying the level of cooperation between ideologically different insurgent groups. Hilly regions like these dot the provincial landscape. They are high and inaccessible, enclosing cave complexes, besides overlooking the unpopulated terrain below for any movement for tens of kms, making any operation particularly challenging. With streams flowing in the hills, virtually any group can lie there undetected for longer periods.

IEDs are a potent asymmetric threat requiring a robust intelligence mechanism and ordnance neutralizing equipment and technology and capacity building. The LEAs, intel and security agencies must devise operating environment to neutralise IEDs with single minded focus of protecting civilian population and security personnel against the asymmetric threat, sources said.

The roadside explosion of IEDs, a tactic successfully employed in Afghanistan and Middle East theatres, resulted in setbacks to the Allied troops there and also caused tragic loss of lives of couple of officers and men in North Waziristan, KPK a fortnight ago. The IEDs are being used in KP, Punjab, Balochistan’s Sibi, rural parts of Quetta and were used to some effect in Karachi too.

During the Eid holidays, magnetic mines were used to attack sectarian targets in Ziarat causing casualties. This time it happened against two families belonging to Hazara community and one of Bohri background from Karachi. In both cases, the timed devices were deployed underneath their vehicles resulting in unfortunate loss of lives.

A menacing mix of terrorists of all hues and colours have been launched keeping Quetta and Gwadar in their gunsights. There have been deadly spikes in terrorism by BLA and BRAS, a new conglomerate of Baloch subnationalists, TTP, Sunni extremists and ISIS elements.

Balochistan is a security blackhole with 95 per cent of the province without police jurisdiction, making it a paradise for smugglers and those indulging in other organized crime. Terrorism becomes too convenient in this scenario.

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