GHQ siege over, 39 hostages rescued
* 4 terrorists killed, ‘ringleader’ Aqeel alias Dr Osman captured alive in commando operation
* Two security personnel, three civilians killed
* ISPR chief says terrorists had suicide jackets, improvised explosive devices, grenades
* Operation was ‘highly successful’
* Zardari orders high-level investigation as police register FIR
* US condemns attack
By Aamir Yasin
RAWALPINDI: In a successful 18-hour operation, the armed forces – in collaboration with Special Services Group commandos – killed four terrorists, arrested one and rescued 39 hostages at a security office outside General Headquarters (GHQ) on Sunday, ending a siege that began on Saturday.
Six soldiers and five terrorists had already been killed in the siege.
Three civilians and two security personnel were killed on Sunday, while seven security personnel and three civilians were also injured during the 18-hour operation – which culminated in the arrest of the ringleader, Aqeel alias Dr Osman. Although Aqeel was injured, sources say his condition is stable.
ISPR Director General Maj Gen Athar Abbas told Daily Times that two army officials were killed and seven others injured in the commando operation. Three civilian hostages also lost their lives in the operation, he said.
The ISPR chief said a total of eight security personnel, including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel, nine terrorists and three civilians were killed on Saturday and Sunday, while the total number of injured stands at 15 – 12 army personnel and three civilians. The injured have been shifted to Combined Military Hospital (CMH).
He said the operation to rescue the hostages began around 6am, and continued for 45 minutes in the first phase – during which commandos rescued 30 hostages and killed four terrorists. He said the five terrorists killed in the first phase were armed with suicide vests and tried to resist troops.
“The terrorists had suicide jackets, improvised explosive devices, grenades.... they wanted to blow up all the hostages and cause maximum damage,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.
“Terrorist Aqeel alias Dr Osman was overpowered at around 9am in an injured condition when he tried to blow himself up and the rest of the hostages ... triggering a blast in adjacent offices of the security building ... five security personnel were injured in the final phase of the operation,” he said. “The operation is over. It was highly successful,” he added.
Abbas said the entire area and the security office were thoroughly combed at the end of the operation. He said there was no senior officer among the hostages, and most of them were army and civilian personnel.
The siege began just before midday on Saturday, when gunmen in military uniform and armed with automatic weapons and grenades drove up to the Rawalpindi compound and shot their way through a checkpoint.
AFP quoted a security official as saying that Aqeel was also wanted in connection with a rocket attack on former president Pervez Musharraf in 2007 and the killing of the military’s surgeon general in February 2008.
“He is a known terrorist. His name is mentioned in several cases,” the official was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered a high-level investigation into the attack on GHQ.
Also, the Royal Artillery Bazaar Police Station on Sunday registered a first information report (FIR) against the attack on GHQ.
Police sources told Daily Times that Aqeel was nominated as the mastermind of the attack, and the case had been registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA).
The US condemned the latest attack, and expressed confidence in the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.