LAHORE -- The Punjab Police Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) has arrested four suspected "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) militants who had been plotting attacks on government targets in Lahore, officials say.
"In a raid September 16, the CTD arrested Abdul-Alam, Muhammad Hafeez-u-Rehman, Nisar Ahmad and Tassavur Amin and seized along with them 1.6kg of explosives, 80 safety fuses and four non-electric detonators," Punjab CTD Senior Superintendent of Police Riaz, who asked to use only one name, told Pakistan Forward.
"Security and law enforcement agencies jointly conducted the raid, and the arrested terrorists were moved to an undisclosed location for further interrogation," he said, declining to provide further details on their location due to security concerns.
ISIL had a hideout near Ya-Rasool-Ullah Park, Moon Market, Allama Iqbal Town in Lahore, he said, adding that the group was planning to kill government officials in a large-scale attack.
"CTD Lahore and other law enforcement agencies jointly got information that terrorists belonging to ISIL were planning to attack government installations in Lahore," he said.
The raid was a result of a directive from Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif, who on August 8 ordered intelligence agencies throughout Pakistan to carry out special combing operations targeting terrorists. The directive came in the wake of an attack on Quetta Civil Hospital, where a Jamatul Ahrar suicide bomber killed more than 70 people, decimating Balochistan's legal community.
"The operation is being carried out by the Counter Terrorism Department and Elite Force and also with help from Rangers," Riaz said. "If needed, the assistance of the Pakistani army may also be utilised."
The combing operation is focusing on highly sensitive zones in Punjab such as Mianwali, Attock, Sargodha, Chakwal, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Okara, Faisalabad, Rajanpur-Rojhan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Bahawalpur, Multan and Lodhran, the CTD said.
Slew of Punjab combing operations net thousands
Police have launched combing operations in all districts of the province and intelligence agencies are utilising information from police sources about the presence of suspected terrorists and criminals, Punjab Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera said.
The Rangers Anti-Terror wing conducted joint raids with the CTD in Punjab to pursue intelligence-based operations against terrorists and to cleanse the province of sleeper cells and high-profile terrorism facilitators.
"Police intelligence agencies and Rangers have been involved in carrying out combing operations in Punjab for the past two years, but now combing operations have been accelerate following terrorist attacks in Quetta and Peshawar," he told Pakistan Forward.
Some 57,000 police officers are taking part in combing operations and all officers worked during the Eid holidays as well, according to Punjab Police.
During Eid, Punjab Police conducted 1,245 combing operations and arrested 1,369 suspects and 288 proclaimed offenders, recovered 305 weapons, questioned 27,658 people in connection to open cases and registered 659 new cases, police officials report.
Most of the arrests took place in Faisalabad, Kasur, Lahore, Chinot, Bhakar, Nankana Sahib and Hafizabad.
"Punjab police will restore peace in the province and will take steps to provide justice for its residents," Sukhera said.
"The operations were launched near sensitive installations, government buildings, railway stations, markets, mosques, imambargahs and bus stands," Deputy Inspector General of Police Haider Ashraf told Pakistan Forward.
"Police and law enforcement agencies detained a number of suspects and during a combing operation recovered sizable arms and narcotics from their possession," he said.
Faisalabad police arrested 98 suspects and three proclaimed offenders in 46 combing operations carried out in various parts of the district, Ashraf said, citing Punjab Police reports.
In Lahore, police questioned 2,120 people and arrested 31 suspects during 28 combing operations. In Nankana Sahib, police carried out 15 combing operations in which they questioned 421 suspects, arrested 16 suspects and two proclaimed offenders, and recovered five weapons and 261 bullets.
In Kasur, police questioned 1,110 people, arrested 91 suspects and two proclaimed offenders, and recovered 59 weapons and 178 bullets in 33 operations. In Gujranwala, police carried out 11 operations in which they questioned 181 people and arrested 17 suspects and three proclaimed offenders.
Chiniot police arrested 35 suspects and one proclaimed offender in five operations, Bhakar police arrested 28 suspects and four proclaimed offenders in 27 operations, and police in Sialkot arrested 10 suspects in 14 combing operations.
In Hafizabad, police questioned 220 people, arrested 14 suspects and eight proclaimed offenders, and recovered five weapons and 55 bullets in 32 operations.
These police operations were "a preliminary step towards countering terrorists", Ashraf said.
He urged the public to report any suspicious activities in its neighbourhoods to prevent any terrorists from hiding from the police.