Shah Faisal Colony raid led to arrests
LAHORE: The investigators into the PNS (Pakistan Naval Station) Mehran attack are trying to zero in on the suspected mastermind of the May 22 terrorist activity in Karachi through the information gathered from a Shah Faisal Colony residence hired by four dead assailants for planning the mission, The News has learnt.
Sources in the Pakistan Navy revealed the terrorists had rented a house in the Shah Faisal Colony for the last two months, where they gave final touch to the plan, besides capitalizing on the residence’s advantageous location for carrying out frequent reconnaissance of the target from the Karsaz Bridge. It was learnt the locals of the Shah Faisal Colony reported presence of unknown residents in that particular house after the operation. They said these guys went missing after the incident. The residents reported this suspicion with the Shah Faisal Colony Police Station a couple of days after the attack. The police then coordinated with the Navy officials, who carried out a joint a raid last Friday, taking possession of whatever they could find in the vicinity. The house owner is being probed.
It was learnt the attackers had, seemingly, ensured removal of important evidence before the attack. However, during the search, the officials found few papers, having different details about the attack, including some important names.
Taking lead from the stuff confiscated from the house and from the last cellphone call made to Qari Qaiser by the leader of the assailants on Sunday night, the lawenforcers then launched a comprehensive arrest campaign with first raids in Faisalabad and Korangi, Karachi on Friday. The Punjab Police picked up Qari Qaiser from Satyana, Faisalabad, while three more suspects, whose names had been kept secret, were arrested from the Industrial Area of Korangi.
All these arrests were made from the leads gathered from the house. The arrest of former Pakistan Navy SSG Kamran Ahmad and his brother, Zaman Ahmad, and three other unidentified persons was the result of further investigation from the already apprehended suspects.
The Karachi Police is conducting raids in different parts of the city. Some more men had been picked up from Sohrab Goth, Karachi.
In addition to this, the investigators had also focused on five to seven sailors of the PNS Mehran, who had been posted at that particular vicinity at one time or the other, where Orion aircrafts were destroyed. Though a largescale investigation is on at the PNS Mehran, these men have been isolated for their reported anti-war on terror sentiments, which they did not hesitate to share with colleagues in the past few months. It was learnt the investigators had taken their cellphones for having a rundown on their calls in the last couple of months. Their names have not been revealed, so far. It is believed some of these sailors might have been leaking vital information to the saboteurs. None of the commissioned officer falls in the prime suspect category in the ongoing investigations, so far.
As for the larger investigations, the concerned team is holding session with each Naval employees. However, the experts in investigation methods within the maritime force have serious reservations on the modus operandi being adopted for interrogation. They are for mass-scale interrogation of people, who could be involved in any manner, simultaneously or with little intervals so the post-interrogation notes could not be exchanged. Moreover, the top Navy officials also have serious reservations vis-‡-vis the constitution of the investigation team headed by Rear Admiral Tehseenullah Khan. The chairman of the committee has served in submarine and is Surface Navy personnel. Khan is heading a team, comprising the Air Commodore (representative of Air Officer Commanding South) of the Faisal Base, Karachi, a Commodore of Navy Aviation Ayaz Nasir, Lt Colonel of Pakistan Rangers Kamran Anwar, a Lt Colonel of ISI (Inter-services Intelligence), Captain Naimatullah Khan (Surface Navy), Captain Naeem Raza (Navy Aviation), an official of the IB (Intelligence Bureau) and SSP Mohammad Asad.
Some top Navy officers are of the view that, apparently, none of the members of the committee has the profile for probing such a complicated and sophisticated sabotage activity. To them, the committee members should have some prior experience in special operations for understanding the nitty-gritty of the May 22 incident. However, the investigators will only take any legal action against any suspect once the Board of Enquiry is summoned under the rules.
During the initial investigations, some important details about the assailants have been gathered. The leader of the gang had a long hair and light-coloured eyes, while the rest of the three members had blue eyes and very fair complexion. All had half-grown beards. They had all-branded attire, branded jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. They were carrying a cellphone and four walkie-talkies.
These walkie-talkies were US made (LXT-303), having a range of around 15 kilometres. It is important to note these walkie-talkies are in use of the US forces, operating in Afghanistan. Besides the Russian–origin weaponry, the attackers used Romanian b in their AK-47s and Russian–made sniper rifle.
Though Nadra has no record of the attackers, the investigators believe the leader was from Waziristan, while the rest were either Uzbeks or Chechens or both.
It is learnt the leader spoke Urdu when warned by the Navy SSG personnel during the attack. “Mujhe patta hai mera kia hashr hona hai (I know what will be my fate),” responded the leader with long hair.
It was further revealed in the enquiry that seven US technicians had left the Mehran Base for the US Consulate at around 6:30 pm.
However, eleven Chinese were evacuated after the attack by the SSG personnel in an armoured Coaster van, which got a few hits from the terrorists. The US technicians were housed around half a kilometer away, while the Chinese were stationed in a building relatively closer to the compound, which was attacked that night.
Similarly, some problems in the protective gear of the SSG personnel had also come to the fore.
The bulletproof jackets, made by a shoemaking company, just couldn’t sustain the velocity of the bullets fired by the gang-leader, who took three SSG personnel at the door of the building occupied by the assailants.
Similarly, helmets, made by Suparco, were ineffective in a close-range combat situation. One SSG survivor had a direct bullet-hit in the helmet, which entered the helmet from the front and crossed from the rear side. The SSG personnel survived luckily as the bullet just brushed his hair.
The top Navy officials also have reservations with regard to the debate about awarding the most prestigious military award to Lt Yasir Abbas. They say the operational details at that night suggest Yasir landed in the situation unaware of the fact what really awaited him at the scene. The three sailors and the rangers’ personnel went there with complete prior knowledge what could happen to them in that gunbattle. The Navy officials say Yasir does deserve honour and appreciation, even a Nishan-e-Haider, but what about the rest, who jumped into action, knowing they might not return? They want such matters to be discussed once the enquiry report into the matter is completed and made public.