Pakistani police shatter network of terrorists who removed own fingerprints

By Javed Khan

Two terrorism suspects are presented to media in Peshawar August 10. [Javed Khan]

Two terrorism suspects are presented to media in Peshawar August 10. [Javed Khan]

PESHAWAR -- Pakistani police are reporting their victory over a terrorist network that adopted a gruesome tactic that police have not seen before.

Three terrorists found dead on May 20 in Peshawar had obliterated their own fingerprints beforehand so that even post-mortem they could not be identified.

The premature explosion of their own bomb killed the trio May 20. Their death, even though they had mutilated their own fingertips, led to a chain of evidence that enabled police to roll up the rest of the gang, police say.

Authorities cannot recall any such gang tactic at obscuring identification before. The motive, some say, might have been an effort to keep police from identifying their families.

Authorities have reached some conclusions about what the three men were planning.

The three doomed terrorists "were planning to attack schools and other installations when their explosives prematurely went off, killing them all on May 20", Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Senior Superintendent of Police Saeed Ahmad told Pakistan Forward.

At the forensic lab, scientists found that "they had removed their fingerprints with some chemical to avoid identification," Ahmad said.

However, police were able to track down the rest of the gang through the dead men's motorbike, Ahmad said.

"We recovered about 50kg of explosives, safety fuses, detonators and other material from one of their hide-outs in Peshawar," Ahmad said. "We arrested other members of the ring."

The police determined that the group had committed a number of bombings and attacks on security forces in Peshawar, KP Police say.

The militants had other plans on May 20, maybe attacking a government-run school in Regi, but their mishandling of their own explosives saved whomever they were plotting to kill.

Reaction from police

KP Police reacted to the terrorists' unintentional warning by stepping up city-wide security and accelerating search operations.

KP Inspector General of Police Nasir Khan Durrani praised the KP Police CTD for its many triumphs in recent months, including breaking up the three dead men's terrorism ring.

The CTD since January 2015 "has solved 600 high-profile terrorism cases, arresting more than 900 terrorists", Durrani said.

KP Police have recently appointed a new capital city police officer, Mohammad Tahir, and a new superintendent of police (rural), Shaukat Khan, in hopes of improving the law-and-order situation.

An unheard-of tactic

Observers are mulling over the bizarre and grotesque way the three militants tried to conceal their identity.

"We never heard of any militant group whose members hid their identity," Peshawar-based journalist Yousuf Ali told Pakistan Forward.

Police and media are accustomed to terrorist groups that claim responsibility for an attack, he said. "Instantly afterward, the spokesman for one group or another calls or emails local media," he said.

"This is something new," Peshawar-based retired army officer Shakil Khan told Pakistan Forward. "They [militants] are adopting new ways to avoid being caught."

Some terrorists might want to protect their families by destroying their own fingerprints in advance, even if they want their organisations to reap notoriety after terrorist acts, Khan said.

That said, "we need to investigate what forced them to remove their fingerprints," Khan said.

Recent attacks

KP Police have been investigating a number of terrorist attacks in Peshawar that could be linked to the network.

A series of terrorist attacks in the jurisdictions of the Daudzai, Mathra, Khazana and Regi police stations took place in May. Police are determining whether the network was involved.

Those attacks targeted police, among others. A double bombing in the jurisdiction of the Mathra police station May 18 killed a police officer.

Violence continued even after the three fingerprint-less terrorists accidentally blew themselves up May 20. A terrorist attack in the jurisdiction of the Khazana police station killed a police sub-inspector June 15, while a constable was killed in the same area June 20.

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Police should also do their job the same way. Good work of Police.