Mardan: Search operation launched by army, police
MARDAN: As reported by The News on Tuesday, backed by the Pakistan Army and paramilitary Frontier Corps, the Mardan police on Monday carried out its first-ever major cordon and search operation in Katlang and Guli Bagh areas in rural Mardan district, where 800 people, some of them suspected to be militants, were taken into custody.
Security officials said the search and cordon operation was launched after receiving intelligence reports that militants involved in the assassination of noted religious scholar and Swat Islamic University vice-chancellor Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan were hiding in the area.
The operation started early Monday. The troops and police blocked the main roads leading to these areas and took positions on the hilltops. Eyewitnesses said Pakistan Army commandos were also dropped from helicopters on hilltops of Buner, Rustam and Shamozai village in Katlang.
Two gunship helicopters were also seen flying over the area during the search operation. The sources said no clash occurred between security forces and suspected militants, reported to be hiding in the mountains and adjoining villages of Guli Bagh and Katlang. They said around 800 people were taken into custody during the search operation and only 80 were detained for their identification.
The remaining people, the officials said, were released on Monday evening. A mysterious militant group, Abdullah Azam Brigade, affiliated with the TTP, had claimed responsibility for the murder of Dr Farooq.
The sources said intelligence agencies had gathered intercepts that show that militants, involved in Dr Farooq’s killing, were hiding in the area. Also, they said the militants hiding in the area were training suicide-bombers.
Security personnel could not cite any major name of the militants whom they arrested during the daylong search operation. Some residents in Ghundo and Matta villages of Katlang said security forces raided their houses early Monday and took them from their homes.
Other villagers said they had come out of their homes as per directives of the law-enforcement agencies to bring national identity cards for their identification and were thus detained. Among the detainees, there were government employees, including schoolteachers, police personnel and Health Department officials.
Some of the government employees complained they were taken into custody even though they had presented their proper identification. Chief Minister Ameer Hadier Hoti, during his recent visit to Mardan, had hinted at a search operation in his hometown. Though officials said majority of the detained people had been released, local villagers stated that all of them had been shifted to the government-run schools for interrogation. The sudden arrival of security forces in large numbers and hovering gunship helicopters panicked the villagers.