LAHORE: Security forces laid siege Thursday to a suspected militant hideout just a few kilometres from the family home of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the city and exchanged fire with terrorists holed up there, officials said.
One policeman was killed and three others wounded in the assault in the Raiwind, which came as a military operation against Taliban militants in the country’s restive northwest enters its second month amid rising fears of reprisal attacks. “A police team raided a house... around 2:00 am (2100 GMT Wednesday) on a tip-off about presence of suspected militants, but they retaliated,” senior police official Malik Owais told AFP. “One terrorist has been killed and another injured in this operation has been arrested. Police have now occupied the compound,” he added.
Waqas Nazir, another police official confirmed the incident, adding that the raid took several hours because civilians had to be evacuated from the area first. Television footage showed a bullet-ridden compound with a large hole blown into one its walls being swarmed by police. Police could not immediately confirm the group to which they belonged. The Raiwind area is home to the famous “Raiwind Palace” – the residence of the powerful Sharif family. It is also the base of the Tablighi Jamaat.
A commando and two terrorists were killed while three police officials were injured in the operation. SP Investigations (Saddar) Zahid Marwat confirmed to the media that the operation, continuing since 2am Wednesday, had been completed after 10 hours. The SP elaborated that on information about presence of terrorists in a house in Araiyan village, the security forces launched an operation against them. He said an official was killed, while three others received injuries during severe exchange of gunfire between the security forces and two heavily armed terrorists who were positioned in the house.
The SP said the security forces, however, managed to overpower the terrorists, killing one on the spot. The other succumbed to his injuries later. He said sophisticated weapons were also recovered from the house. The security forces combed and cleared the village. Marwat said the martyred Elite Force man was yet to be identified while the three injured personnel were identified as Muhammad Afzal, Sajid and Mazhar, and they have been shifted to Jinnah Hospital.
Sources said that the slain official, identified as Sabir Hussain, was killed by a hand grenade lobbed by the terrorists. They said that despite several announcements by the law enforcers, the terrorists refused to surrender or negotiate. It was also reported that the militants had booby-trapped the house. The law enforcers fired teargas shells and hurled hand grenades before entering the house from where the terrorists used heavy weapons against the police, leaving an official dead and four others injured.
A heavy contingent of police, Elite Force commandos and Rangers was called in to capture the terrorists. CCPO Zulfiqar Hameed said the killed terrorists were identified as Ahsan Mahboob of Okara and Sabir. He disclosed that police had already arrested three of their accomplices in an operation in Okara. He said the security forces had also recovered explosive materials and literature about techniques of making and detonating bombs. The police have taken the owner of the house into custody for interrogation. According to security forces, the terrorists were planning to attack the prime minister’s private residence, Raiwind Palace, which is located only a few kilometers from the house occupied by the terrorists.
Punjab Minister for Anti-Terrorism Shuja Khanzada said that initial information indicated presence of women and children inside the militant compound. “We started armed operation soon after confirmation that there is no hostage inside (militant) compound,” he said, adding that the house was rented two months ago while initial investigation revealed that the terrorists were locals.
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