LAHORE: The Punjab Counter-Terrorism Department and an intelligence agency in a joint operation on Thursday busted media cell of the AQIS (Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent) in Gujranwala, causing a major blow to the terrorist organization.
The cell was also involved in financing terrorist operations of the AQIS. Five senior and important members have been arrested.
An official privy to the development told Dawn that the raiding team recovered a large quantity of media equipment, funds for terror financing, suicide jackets, explosives, and deadly arms.
He said officers of both agencies [CTD and ISI] had been working on the cell for quite some time on the basis of intelligence reports.
“The AQIS had been running its propaganda campaign online and physically from a secret location in Karachi,” the official said. After the focus of both the law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) on the terrorists in Karachi, they had recently shifted the set-up to Gujranwala. The LEAs continued their surveillance.
The recoveries included two laptops with encrypted data for communication with senior command based in Afghanistan and soft files [press printed] of banned books.
Similarly, the team received several mobile phones full of data of their activities, printing press with all allied equipment, five suicide jackets, two kg explosive material, five Kalashnikovs and ammunition, two pistols, cash/funds for terrorism financing and maps of sensitive places.
The five terrorists arrested by the agencies are very important members of the AQIS. One of them is Asim Akbar alias Saeed alias Baba alias Bazurg alias Jaffer, a resident of Lahore. He has been associated with Al-Qaeda since 2005. He was in charge of the media cell. He had trained many activists of AQIS in media graphics and animations including Abu Hasham who was killed in Afghanistan a few months back.
In addition to online material, he was now running a printing press where AQIS literature was being published and disseminated. The printed material was disseminated to various parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan through couriers.
The official said the online material was downloaded by the members from secret locations.
Another terrorist Abdullah Umair aka Hanzla aka Basit aka Rab Nawaz is a resident of Karachi. He had joined the organization in 2010. He remained a close aide of the present operational/militant commander of AQIS Atif Ghauri alias Yahya who is in Afghanistan now. He was now coordinating activities of AQIS in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Similarly, Ahmad Rehman alias Qasim is a resident of Karachi. He had joined AQIS in 2015. He was trained for urban ambush operations. He had been trained by previous emir of AQIS, Asim Umar, who was recently killed in Afghanistan. He was planning to launch an attack on LEA personnel in Punjab in the coming days.
He said Muhammad Yousaf is a resident of Karachi. He is the brother of AQIS commander Yaqoob. He has also been trained in urban terrorist warfare. He was here to assist Ahmad in launching attacks on LEAs.
Muhammad Yaqoob alias Gora is also a resident of Karachi. He had joined AQIS in 2014. He is a social media blogger of AQIS. He is an expert in making forged documents. He was instrumental in running a propaganda campaign.
The official added that AQIS had been trying hard to keep its membership intact after the emergence of the militant Islamic State group [ISIS/Daesh] in 2014 as several AQIS members were crossing over to ISIS. The method adopted has been to continue propaganda on social media, to continue the provision of written material through couriers. After the defeat of ISIS, AQIS had started its activities to re-organize itself and made its presence felt to boost the morale of its members.
“The cell had made a plan to launch terrorist/militant activities in Punjab. This plan was to be implemented from Gujranwala on the direction of the operations commander Atif Ghauri alias Yahya from Afghanistan,” the official said.
However, the plan had been averted by CTD and ISI, he said while declaring it a major success of the LEAs that they not only foiled the plan but also arrested five terrorists of the AQIS.
“It is being considered as single most important legal action of the LEAs during the last two years,” the official said.
It will take a lot of time by AQIS to recover from this arrest of important members. The Gujranwala CTD police have registered a case. Important disclosures are expected in the investigation, he said.