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Saturday November 27, 2021

‘In Karachi, ISIS present in spirit only’

January 25, 2016

CTD official says direct involvement of ISIS in terrorist activities not found, only self-styled militants inspired by the terrorist organisation nabbed

Karachi: The Sindh police’s counter-terrorism department says that it has not detected the direct presence of the Islamic State (ISIS) or Daesh in Karachi or other parts of the province so far, but there are self-styled militants operating in small, individual groups after becoming inspired by the Middle East-based terrorist organisation.

“We haven’t come across any actual Daesh operative in Karachi or the rest of Sindh, but there are people who have pledged allegiance to the organisation and carrying out terrorist activities on their own,”  Raja Umer Khattab, the CTD Anti-Transnational Terrorists Intelligence Group chief, told The News on Sunday.

“Our continuous operations have busted the networks of these like-minded groups,” he added.

The official said ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had appointed a man named Qari Hafiz Saeed Khan as the organisation’s commander for Afghanistan and Pakistan last year.

He added that Khan lived in the tribal belt near the Pak-Afghan border.

Khattab said after reports came in that some groups were affiliated with Daesh and also being funded by the terrorist organisation, a crackdown was launched with the assistance of intelligence agencies and several terrorists were arrested in Karachi and Lahore.

The Karachi CTD officials also shared information with their counterparts in Lahore to ascertain as to whether or not the terrorists rounded up had links to Khan.

However, it was found that the terrorists nabbed in Karachi and Lahore were not ISIS operatives, but individuals, who after becoming inspired by the terrorist outfit, had formed groups on their own.

Most of them were former members of religious groups or parties who were expelled over their militant tendencies.

Citing examples, Khattab mentioned Saad Aziz and Khalid Yousuf Bari, who were arrested by the CTD for their involvement in the Safoora Goth attack wherein 47 members of the Ismaili community were gunned down.

Bari provided funds and shelter to the members of his group and also married off a relative to Aziz, the mastermind of the attack.

Bari’s wife, Naheed Baji, had formed an organisation called Idara-e-Al Zakirah Academy in Baloch Colony through which she recruited women for the group and delivered speeches inspired by ISIS. There were about 20 women from rich background working for the academy. At the academy, young women were brainwashed and assigned the task of generating funds for the group by collecting zakat and donations.

During interrogation, Bari disclosed that he was earlier associated with the Tanzeem-e-Islami and after developing differences with the organisation, he had joined the Dr Akmal Waheed group, an al-Qaeda affiliate. Bari had acquired an electronics degree from the Dawood Engineering College. He had started working at the Pakistan International Airlines, but his services were terminated.

Bari was associated with al-Qaeda Karachi chief Umer Jalal. Besides Aziz, other members of his group included Abdullah Yousuf, Mufti Tauseef, Saleem Ahmed, Suleman Saeed, and Adil Masood Butt. Apart from being involved in terrorist attacks itself, the group facilitated al-Qaeda both financially and logistically.

Khattab said these men had formed their own group, headed by Abdullah Yousuf and their direct or indirect ties with ISIS could not be established.

“In Pakistan, al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives are working together and targeting officials and installations of security forces,” he said.

“Their affiliation with ISIS isn’t possible as the latter has basically dislodged al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.”

To a query, Khattab said the involvement of educated youngsters in the terrorism activities was not a recent phenomenon.

He pointed out that there were instances in the past too when educated men were found involved in terrorism including Dr Akmal and Dr Arshad Waheed, two brothers affiliated with al-Qaeda (the latter having been killed in a drone strike in Waziristan), and members of Jundullah killed in a shootout with police in Shah Latif, Karachi a few years ago and al-Qaeda member Ustaad Ahmed Farooq. “The AQIS and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are working together and recruiting young, religious-minded people at educational institutions,” the official added.