PESHAWAR -- The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) has accelerated actions against target killers, busting a network involved in the assassination of policemen and other high-profile individuals in Peshawar.
"A key target killer, Muhammad Farid, involved in the murder of at least 32 persons was arrested during an action in Qazi Kelay in the suburbs of Peshawar on September 21," CTD Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mian Saeed Ahmad told Pakistan Forward.
The detainee had recently joined the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), following in the footsteps of at least one of his brothers, Ahmad said.
"One brother of the held terrorist was killed during an encounter with security forces some time ago, while another brother is being held in Afghanistan for links with ISIL," he said.
Farid used at least four aliases to avoid capture, Ahmad said, adding that other militants knew him by those aliases: Raja, Sabit, Abdullah and Sabitae.
"Farid got training in Jaba Toba in Afghanistan back in 2008 and was active against police and other forces since then," he said.
Investigations revealed that Farid and his group were involved in killing at least 15 police officers over the years, Ahmad said.
"The group was behind the slaughter of five women ... in Peshawar in the past few months," the CTD said in a September 21 statement. "Their bodies were thrown into the river."
The killers suspected the women were involved in various crimes, it said.
Farid's group was accused of extorting money from civilians and planting bombs within the jurisdictions of the Faqirabad, Paharipura and Khazana police stations in recent months, according to the CTD.
"Operations are being carried out to arrest other members of his network," the CTD said.
Operations against target killers expanded
Pakistani security forces have taken a number of actions against terrorists in Qazi Kelay and other parts of Peshawar recently, officials say.
An encounter in Qazi Kelay between police and suspected terrorists on September 27 resulted in the arrest of one suspect, while two other suspects escaped. Police recovered an improvised explosive device weighing about 4kg.
Police and CTD officers broke up another group in suburban Garhi Atta Muhammad on September 23, killing an target killer commander in a shootout.
Heavy contingents of police and CTD rushed from all over Peshawar to arrest the target killer, but he continued firing on police.
"As a result of the shooting, the target killer was killed inside a house," Capital City Police Officer Mohammad Tahir told Pakistan Forward, adding that police are taking action to restore peace in the provincial capital.
The target killer commander, identified as Rashid Khan, was said to be the key commander involved in a number of assassinations of police and high-profile individuals in Peshawar.
Police and CTD officers are responding to a recent uptick in targeted killings with force.
In the past few months, police have arrested suspected terrorists accused of involvement in the assassinations of an army colonel, a retired intelligence agency director, Shia elders, police officers and others, media report.
The increase in targeted killings in the city has forced even traffic police sergeants to wear bullet-proof jackets and carry guns while performing their duties in rural and suburban areas, media report.
"During search-and-strike operations on September 28 and September 29, 106 suspects and proclaimed offenders [wanted fugitives] were rounded up in Peshawar," said capital city police spokesman Muhammad Alam.
Police erected barricades and set up check points all over Peshawar to keep an eye on suspicious individuals' movements, he said.
"During the two-day operation, 34 pistols, one semi-automatic gun and two rifles were seized from the suspects who are undergoing interrogation," Alam told Pakistan Forward.