Pakistan has arrested 97 al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (Lej) militants, including three commanders, in the southern city of Karachi. The army also foiled a planned jailbreak of the killer of American journalist Daniel Pearl- the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief who was beheaded in 2002 in Pakistan- the army said on Friday.
The arrested men are accused of involvement in major attacks on two Pakistani air bases, the Karachi airport, several intelligence offices across the country and police installations between 2009 and 2015, Reuters reported citing military officials. The military also recovered about 9,000 weapons in different operations in Karachi.
In recent raids, Pakistani forces captured LeJ’s Naeem Bokhari and Sabir Khan, along with Farooq Bhatti, deputy chief of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said.
“Our conclusion is that all of the terrorist groups are trying to cooperate with each other in order to carry out terrorist attacks,” he told a news conference.
The LeJ and AQIS had been working “in collusion” with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani wing of the Taliban, Bajwa added.
The al-Qaeda and LeJ militants had “nearly executed” a jailbreak to set Omar Sheikh free and to kill 35 prisoners at the Hyderbad jail, the Pakistan Army official said. Sheikh, who had been freed by India in exchange for hostages of a hijacked passenger plane in 2000, had beheaded Daniel Pearl in 2002.
The jailbreak plan was reportedly “90 percent ready for execution”, he said.
They had a separate list of about 100 prisoners, including Sheikh, whom they were supposed to release and they had created a map of the jail.
Video images of the militants’ hideout showed blue plastic barrels filled with explosives, washing machines that had been used to transport arms and ammunition, long lengths of detonating cord and dozens of ball bearings.
“Three terrorists, including a police constable, who helped terrorists make this map, have been apprehended and are being interrogated by intelligence agencies,” he said.
With al-Qaeda, LeJ and dozens of militant groups, Pakistan has been under domestic and international pressure to take sever measures against all such groups. It launched a renewed operation against some of them in June 2014.