Sunday March 03, 2024

After escape from Afghanistan: Anti-Pakistan terror outfits regrouping in Balochistan

“Nearly 200 activists of different Baloch militant organisations and Daesh/ISK-P cells have been reported in and around Nago hills of Mastung and in Margat in the outskirts of Quetta,” intel sources confirmed.

September 27, 2021
File photo
File photo

KARACHI: The anti-Pakistan terrorist infrastructure comprising Baloch nationalists, TTP and ISK-P, long hosted by NDS-RAW at Afghan sanctuaries, have escaped into Pakistan following the recent changes in Kabul and are learnt to be regrouping and recruiting in Balochistan.

According to security officials, the leaderships of these groups, which were long hosted by NDS-RAW in Afghan sanctuaries of of Kunar, Spin Boldak, Nangarhar and Kandahar, is settling down in hostile neighbouring countries. Intelligence officers believe it is only a matter of time before they consolidate and strike back, challenging our vigilance, and security apparatus.

Calling it a race against terrorists, the top police and intelligence sources tracking the terrorist footprint, say the top leadership of the Balochistan militant organisations (BMOs) using passports issued by New Delhi have arrived in India and are in the process of settling down in camps there.

These officials say certain ‘second tier and the masterminds’ have been sighted in Iran’s Sistan province, bordering Balochistan. “Dr Allah Nazar, Bashir Zeb and Gulzar Shambe using ‘forged‘ Iranian, Afghan travel documents and Tazkara, border passes, have made it to the Iranian province bordering Balochistan,” a security official confirmed while requesting anonymity. But not all have moved to these two countries, the remaining rank and file have returned to Pakistan to haunt.

“Nearly 200 activists of different Baloch militant organisations and Daesh/ISK-P cells have been reported in and around Nago hills of Mastung and in Margat in the outskirts of Quetta,” intel sources confirmed.

“The BLA terrorists in all probability must have joined forces with the militants of a major chief of Dr Allah Nazr faction, Mullah Amin, who with his group of 70-80 armed cadres was holed up in Nagoo Hills, Mastung,” sources in Balochistan Police strongly suspect. The BLA has robust presence in Kharan, Sibi, Bolan and Mach, besides Turbat and Awaran, and all are under security lens too, sources confided.

On September 24th, the FC managed to kill six BLA terrorists in Laja, Kharan. As regards to Daesh/ ISK-P, “there are also reports of the presence of, the most-sought-after, terrorist leader Mumtaz, alias Mota alia Pehlwan having slipped back into Mastung, Balochistan, who was killed on Sunday in Kanak, Mastung. He had assumed more importance now that another terrorist mastermind of the ultra right, Farooq Bangalzai was reportedly killed trying to cross into Iran from Nangarhar.” There is no update so far about the other most wanted terrorist leader, Mufti Kabir who was last reported to be on the run in Afghanistan. There are some others too.

But the ‘major’ Ameer/ mastermind of this hydra cell is Maulvi Afghan who is reported in the area and is being pursued, offices of a counter terrorism intelligence agency confirmed.

Mastung for long has been the centre of gravity for both the BLA and Daesh and in fact witnessed high profile security forces operation in June-July. The hilly tracks and scores of tunnels, besides scanty nomadic make shift population make the area an ideal ground for viper nests. The terrorists and even their families find it easy to settle and move around in this area without raising much suspicion. The topography is also ideal in keeping an eye over several kilometres of surrounding area from the 100-150 meter high hills, making any surprise movement by security forces difficult. In the past, BLA and Daesh co-existed in this area, sharing their camps and hideouts, resources “and there is no wonder it is already happening once again,” security experts analyse.

According to police intelligence sources, “there is a massive resurgence of TTP in Balochistan which is a worrisome and a bigger challenge. They are also aggressively going ahead with recruitment too.”

The fleeing TTP men, led by Ainuzaman Akhunzada, back from Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, are regrouping and recruiting for quite some time now in Zhob and Loralai, even ahead of the August 15 Taliban government installation in Kabul, and preparing to strike with vengeance. The TTP chief, Noorwali Mehsud, made his ambitions known by announcing plans to ‘retake’ erstwhile tribal region after the US exit and the Afghan Taliban taking charge in Kabul. “The victory of one Muslim was surely helpful to another Muslim,” Mehsud said.

Motivated by ascension of Taliban in Afghanistan, the TTP has rethought its malevolence to drive a deeper chasm between the people and security forces. Mehsud has pledged to attack primarily the LEAs. Conscious of its public image, it has also warned the media not to refer to them in “what they consider as derogatory terms.”

Security experts consider the TTP nodes as the biggest threat at the moment. The suicide attack at a Frontier Constabulary check-post on Mastung Road, Quetta, in the first week of the current month left three FC troops martyred and 20 others injured, was undertaken in the light of new strategy. “Had they chosen a different place and timing, the losses would have been much higher,” security experts believe.

Meanwhile, reconnaissance and intelligence based operations against the existing terrorist infrastructure continue to keep the pressure on. In recent operations, “the Baloch Liberation Army, United Baloch Army have been cut down by 10 pc. ISKP has also been moderately degraded, as per estimation of police and security sources, by as much as 25 per cent.”

On August 31, 11 members of ISKP of the Abdul Hayee group were killed by CTD Balochistan in Killi Qamar Mazarabad in district Mastung comprising top first and second tier leadership and their decapitation served well. Also, 10-12 BLA, BLF suspected terrorists were killed in different operations in Quetta and Loralai by CTD Balochistan. There have been several arrests too. The decapitation of terrorist provincial, district and sub district level leadership has shown positive results in neutralizing the groups, the experts believe. However in August alone three Levies personnel in Ziarat were killed.

At the same time, “some top BSN ( Baloch sub nationalists) leadership are in advance level of negotiations with government and the hard bargain from both sides continues. The CTD Balochistan has also busted a cell of Baloch subnationalist terrorist organisation, directed and handled from Iran based BLO cell in Sheeran, Chahbahar, led by Rasool Bux who masterminded the suicide attack on a Chinese national, leaving him injured and killing four children in Gwadar, earlier this month. The suicide bomber was transported from Ramin area of Iran by brother of Rasul Bux, Ahmad. Bux also led attack PC Hotel Gwadar in 2019 through his and father Dur Mohammad and the same brother Ahmad, the CTD officers working on the case said.

Intercepts and investigations of terrorists have convinced the security leadership in Sindh and Balochistan that the reorganizing terrorists have set sights on Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad and Quetta through active and sleeper cells.

The security and intelligence experts believe that while Quetta appears calm for now but it is on the powder keg, which can go off any time. Specific Intelligence Based Operations need to continue with ‘greater focus on multi-agency coordination of army, FC, Police, CTD and the entire civil and military intelligence set ups to avoid slip ups.

The terrorism spike by the ISKP either independently or in tandem with TTP and BSNS can remain a thorn on our side, with fresh recruitments and regrouping.

Top sources in Sindh LEAs and police also confirmed several sightings of fleeing terrorists in Sukkur and Karachi. The Sindh chief minister was informed in the Apex Committee meeting that some of the dacoit gangs holed up in the inaccessible riverine areas of Kashmore, Ghotki, Khairpur and Sukkur equipped with sophisticated, military grade weapons in Sindh could provide hideouts to saboteurs travelling down from Balochistan owing to past associations.