26/11 Attackers must be punished: Pakistan foreign minister

IANS | Islamabad : Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Friday said the terrorists involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attack must be punished and Pakistan is ready to extend all possible support in this regard.

Talking to the media in his native town of Multan, Qureshi said: “We have always condemned the Mumbai attacks. Terrorism in any part of the world is condemnable, and we also want proper action against the culprits.” “The interior ministry has sent some proposals in this regard to India and a response is awaited,” he said. “Pakistan wants peace in the region. This propaganda is incorrect that Pakistan is backing militancy.” “We have some outstanding issues with India, and Kashmir is on top of it,” he said.

Pakistan and India started a composite dialogue in January 2004 to settle bilateral disputes but the process was stalled in 2008 after the 26/11 attack when India accused Pakistan-based militant outfits of terrorism.

Terror bid at Pakistan parliament foiled, two arrested

IANS | Islamabad : Pakistani security officials have arrested two suspected militants who were allegedly planning to carry out suicide attacks on the parliament building and a mosque in Islamabad.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed to the media that “two suspects have been arrested in a major crackdown by the security forces in the suburbs of Islamabad”. “We have received information from our sources and had already beefed up security and search operations,” he said. “The suspected terrorists, Qasim Munir and Naeemullah, originate from Bannu district in (northwestern) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province,” he said. “One of them wanted to target the parliament building while the other was planning to carry out suicide bombing in a mosque in the red zone,” he revealed. “For the ongoing Senate session, we only allowed media and parliamentarians while the visitors were barred,” he said, adding: “Entry in the red zone without proper identity cards has been disallowed with immediate effect”. “The forces must be appreciated for completing this operation without any panic,” he said, adding: “Suicide jackets and other explosives have also been recovered from the suspects.”

Earlier, Malik chaired a meeting of the security forces in which he was briefed about the operation. The Senate, the upper house of Pakistan parliament, was in session when the news about the attempted attack broke out. The federal capital has been a target of Taliban and other militant outfits and several buildings, including the Marriott hotel, have previously been targeted.

Five militants among six killed in Pakistan

IANS | Islamabad: A security official and five militants were killed Friday in a clash at a security checkpost in Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal region.

The fighting started when militants attacked a checkpost in the Mishti area of Orakzai Agency. The security forces fired in retaliation that “killed at least five suspected terrorists”, Samaa TV reported.

Security officials have confirmed the attack requesting anonymity. The militants have been targeting the convoys and checkposts of security forces regularly as the Pakistani military attempts to take control of the restive region.

Don’t drag ISI into 26/11 trial, says Pakistan

IANS | Islamabad: It was “improper to unnecessarily drag Pakistani intelligence agency ISI” into the Mumbai terror attack trial, Pakistan said Thursday, a day after a US court summoned the ISI chief and other officials in response to a case filed by relatives of two American 26/11 victims.

At his weekly briefing in Islamabad, Pakistani Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said: “We are serious in taking punitive action against the culprits of 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, but it is improper to unnecessarily drag Pakistani intelligence agency ISI in it.”

He said he has no knowledge that “the ISI chief was summoned in a US court in connection with 26/11 probe”.

The summons were issued by a New York court to ISI’s powerful chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, and other officials Major Samir Ali, Azam Cheema and Major Iqbal, as aslo Pasha’s predecesor Lt.Gen. Nadeem Taj. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi and Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, the alleged masterminds of the Nov 26-29, 2008, Mumbai terror attack, also have been summoned.

The 26-page lawsuit was filed before a Brooklyn court last week by family members of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his pregnant wife, Rivka, who were among the 166 people killed during the attack. Their son Moshe was saved by his Indian nanny Sandra in the tragedy.

The suit alleges that ISI “provided critical planning, material support, control and coordination for the attacks” to the Pakistan-based militant group LeT, which has been blamed for the 26/11 siege. The LeT is also named in the suit.

On composite dialogue, Basit said that “India is only paying lip-service as far as the composite dialogue is concerned and has shown no inclination towards the resumption of stalled talks”.

He said that “bilateral relations between India and Pakistan cannot improve without settling the Kashmir dispute”. Bilateral talks between Pakistan and India hit a roadblock after the Mumbai attack when India accused Pakistani militant outfits for it.

The visit of Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna to Islamabad in July this year was expected to break the ice, but was also marred by a deadlock when the joint communique could not be issued because of differences on inclusion of Kashmir dispute in it. During the briefing, Basit said that the “country will never allow drone attacks in Balochistan”.

Washington Post had carried a report a few days ago claiming that US had sought permission from Islamabad for drone strikes in Balochistan province to target suspected hideouts of Al-Qaeda and Taliban.

Top Al Qaeda leader killed in US drone attack

IANS | Islamabad : A senior Al Qaeda leader, Mufti Ali Muhammad, has reportedly been killed along with two of his accomplices in a US drone strike Friday in Pakistan’s North Waziristan district along the Afghan border.

The pilotless drone fired four missiles at a vehicle, in which Mufti was travelling along with three other militants near Mir Ali village of Miranshah in the restive tribal area. At least three suspected militants, including Mufti, were killed on the spot while one was injured, a report said. “Mufti Ali Muhammad was an important leader of the Haqqani network that used North Waziristan as its headquarters for terrorist activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” a security official said while confirming his death in the drone attack. The tribal area bordering Afghanistan is considered a hideout of Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. Last year, Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed in one such air strike.

Since 2004, more than 1,660 suspected militants have been killed in about 200 drone strikes in the area. The US stepped up these strikes in 2010 and more than 700 suspects have been killed in over 100 air strikes this year.

No CCTV evidence in Karachi blast, says official

IANS | Islamabad: It would be difficult to track down the suspects in the Karachi port city blast Thursday that killed 19 people because electricity supply to the bombed police station was disconnected and there was no CCTV footage, an official said Saturday.

Authorities Saturday, however, issued sketches of two suspects piecing together the information from eye-witnesses. They include a youngster of around 22 years of age and another man in his mid-30s, who were amongst the 10 terrorists who attacked the Karachi police station that housed the targeted criminal investigation department (CID) office.

Inspector General Sindh Police Salahuddin Babar Khattak said “the attackers came on two motorbikes and one SUV jeep. They fired from two sides before carrying out the blast”.

Ahmad Chinoy, chief of the Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC)of Karachi, said: “The Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) had disconnected the electricity of the CID police station a day before the blast, which meant that the CCTV cameras were not working when the explosion took place.” “The lack of evidence in the form of CCTV footage has made it difficult for police authorities to find any clue about the suspected terrorists,” he said. KESC spokesperson Ayesha Arabi, however, denied the claim and said the power supply was restored shortly afterwards.

Banned militant outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban claimed responsibility for the high-intensity attack, which also left over 140 people injured. As many as 170 nearby houses were damaged in the attack while some offices situated on the same road have developed cracks. The residents and the families of police officials killed in the blast are sitting at the debris and no alternative shelter has been provided to them as yet.

At least eight police officials patrolling the area were killed in the blast and the Sindh government has announced Rs.two million each and a plot in recognition of their sacrifice. There have been reports in the media that six suspects arrested a couple of days before the blast for having links with Lashkar-i-Jhangvi were missing since the deadly suicide attack. “The arms and ammunition of the police officials on duty as well as the suicide jackets recovered from the terrorists are also not being found,” a media report said.

“The exact situation will only be known after the removal of rubble,” said Javed Akram, superintendent of Sadar police. Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza said: “We are in a state of war and such attacks should not deter us from our resolve to fight extremism.” Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah visited the blast site Saturday and said the terrorists could not entirely succeed in their designs after being stopped at the check-post. He said the new CID office will be built somewhere else instead of the busy downtown location. An FIR has been registered against unknown attackers while the evidence collected initially has been sent to forensic lab.

19 killed in Karachi suicide blast

IANS | Islamabad : At least 19 people were killed and more than 110 were injured Thursday night when an explosives-laden vehicle rammed into a police station in a high-security zone in downtown Karachi, Pakistan’s largest metropolis, authorities said.

Inspector General of Police, Sindh, Sultan Babar Khattak said “four-five terrorists attacked the police station from two sides and exchanged fire with security officials at the check post for five-ten minutes”.

Home Minister of Sindh, Zulfiqar Mirza, said the “truck was carrying around 1,000 kg explosive and the nature of the blast was very much similar to the attack at Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in 2008”.

The blast site is just a few steps away from the house of Sindh province chief minister, five-star hotels, the US consulate and other important buildings. A meeting of Sindh cabinet was underway at the chief minister’s house when the terrorists struck.

Police sources said that the attack targeted the Crime Investigation Department (CID) police station because “a Taliban commander Iqbal Bajori arrested a day before along with six other suspected terrorists was kept there”.

Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Fayyaz Leghari, however, said: “No high-profile target was present in the premises”. Chairman Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) Ahmad Chinoy said, “Security lapse could not be ruled out in the unfortunate incident”.

A 10-12 feet crator was created at the site following the blast while thick black smoke kept emitting for quite a while. The residential quarters of the police station staff were razed to the ground along with the main building and around 10 other buildings.

Banned militant outfit Tehreek-i-Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has condemned the blast and sought a detailed report from the police. A revered shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi was hit by a suicide blast last month killing more than 10 people in Karachi while two Shia processions were hit earlier this year, causing heavy casualties.

Pakistan has been hit by terrorist activities during the last few years as a backlash from the “war on terror” that is underway in northwestern areas and neighbouring Afghanistan. Several small and high-intensity blasts have killed thousands of innocent civilians in such attacks since 2002.